[A man peers through the wreckage in Shawnee, Oklahoma, theUnited States, May 20, 2013. Tornadoes ravaged portions of central Oklahoma on Sunday, according to media reports. (Xinhua/Marcus DiPaola) ]
HOUSTON, (Xinhua): A powerful tornado struck the southern suburbs of Oklahoma City, capital of the U.S. state of Oklahoma, on Monday afternoon, killing at least 51 people and injuring at least 140 others, officials said.
At least 20 of the dead were children, including at least seven from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, which lies directly in the path of the monster storm’s wall of wind. Of the wounded, 70 were also children, according to media reports.
The tornado reportedly ripped through Moore in the southern part of the Oklahoma city metropolitan area Monday afternoon, devastating homes and buildings. The monster twister was estimated to be at least two miles (3.2 km) wide at one point as it moved through the area.
Video coverage from CNN affiliates showed a funnel cloud stretching from the sky to the ground, kicking up debris. Areas of metropolitan Oklahoma city appeared to be in ruins after the tornado moved through the region.
Block after block lay in ruins in Moore, a community of 41,000 people. Homes were crushed into piles of broken wood while cars and trucks were left crumpled on the roadside.
Briarwood Elementary School in Moore reportedly received a “direct hit” from the storm and was severely damaged. Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore was also on the twister’s path.
Speaking to reporters Monday night, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said officials are doing everything they can to help find people who may be lost or injured.
More than 32,000 electricity users in Oklahoma were left without power early Monday evening, local power providers said.
The tornado followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region in May 1999. It was the fourth tornado to hit Moore since 1998. A twister also struck in 2003.
Monday afternoon’s tornado in Moore came after tornadoes and powerful storms ripped through Oklahoma and the Midwest on Sunday and earlier Monday.
Two people, both in their 70s, were confirmed dead after tornadoes hit Oklahoma on Sunday, officials said Monday.
As many as 28 tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.
A combination of factors, including strong winds and warm, moist air banging against dry air, means severe weather could continue sweeping across a wide swath of the U.S. for days, according to CNN