Rain hampers Oklahoma rescue effort
22 May 2013, 09:03
Moore - Torrential rains hampered rescue and relief efforts
on Tuesday in this Oklahoma City suburb reeling from one of the worst
tornadoes in the United States in years.
Police roadblocks strictly controlled access to the
section of Moore, a residential suburb of 55 000 residents, laid to
waste by Monday's mid-afternoon twister, allowing only residents with
proper ID to pass.
Even then, one sheriff's deputy told AFP during a break
from roadblock duty, the multiple-block area remains very much a danger
zone with downed power lines spilling onto rain-sodden streets and
yards carpeted with building debris.
Police put the death toll at around 24, with nearly everyone accounted for.
"It's unreal. It's so visceral," said accountant Roger
Graham, 32, as he combed through the ruins of the three-bedroom "normal
suburban dwelling" he shared with his wife Kalissa, a school teacher,
recovering what he could.
Both were at work in nearby Norman when the tornado
struck, escaping personal injury, but upon returning home on Tuesday -
after two hours of battling traffic - the Grahams were as much
surprised by what they found as what they lost.
"My house is just a big pile of rubble, yet we found a [ceramic] jar intact," Graham told AFP. He also unearthed a medal from a
half-marathon he ran for a memorial to victims of the 1995 Oklahoma
On traffic-congested Route 37, along the northern
perimeter of the disaster zone, shards of wood, bits of roofing
shingles, even a piece of foam cushion were seen littering the curb.
From the southwest, moving in the same direction as
Monday's tornado, thunderstorms swept through in the early afternoon,
jabbing the prairie with lightning bolts and dumping enough rain to
briefly flood some side streets.
Neighbourhoods just a few kilometres to the
north reported no water or electricity, despite being clear of the
tornado's path. Many stores and restaurants closed early, for lack of
utilities or customers.
The scope of Monday's tornado - which roughly followed
the same track as a May 1999 twister that killed 44 people - was
evident to passengers on flights coming into Oklahoma City's Will Rogers
World Airport, west of Moore.
On final approach, they could make out the exact spot
where the tornado touched down, from which a wide brown swath of
upturned earth stretched into the distance, as if a giant had come
through with a monster garden tiller.
Graham, who owned his house for five years and looked
to his insurance policy to cover his losses, was gratified by an
outpouring of support from friends, neighbours and his brother who is
putting him up for the time being.
"There's no lack of support out here," he said. "We're just trying to figure out what's next."
While speaking with AFP, Graham's next-door neighbours
made their own joyful discovery amid the devastation - the family cat,
which apparently survived the twister only a little worse for wear.
"They thought she was gone," Graham said. "It looks like she's in good shape."