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The aftermath of most destructive US tornado

Rescue efforts continue in Oklahoma as shaken residents watch the skies amid forecast of more storms.
Last modified: 22 May 2013 08:39

There are no words. No adjectives, no superlatives, no real comparisons to be made.

It is in the end very simple. A tornado swept through Moore in Oklahoma, a massive tornado more than a kilometre wide which lived for 40 minutes, chewing up and spitting out anything in its path.

Homes that were once a pride and joy reduced to nothing in seconds. A hospital where the short warning period allowed the evacuation of patients has walls and the roof ripped off. Cars have been dumped across this place like a child abandons a game.

The devastation stretches over a wide area. The US National Weather Service has now confirmed what everyone here felt. This was one of the strongest tornadoes ever to hit the US - a five on the scientific scale they use. That means winds of more than 320kph. That means death and destruction.

As we walked through the streets of Moore - some people had begun the clean up. They were sweeping and shovelling, sweating and cursing. While others could only turn up with plastic bags to take any small reminder of life before the tornado.

Sara Taylor heard about the storm on the radio. She went to her church. It has a basement. There she heard the roars and the crashes.

She went back to her home on Tuesday morning. There were holes in the roof. Windows and doors were busted. There was no power, no heat or light. Dinner was fresh fruit and a cold can of beans.

But she knows she's a lucky one.

"Homes near us have been destroyed. They are just gone. People have lost their lives," she told me. "We have problems but we can rebuild. Yes we're lucky."

She took a call from a friend. She's about to graduate from high school. "They say the ceremony will still go ahead. I hope so."

It would be a step towards normal in a place that will now remember things before and after the tornado.

On the edge of the town - the cinema has replaced the notice of the latest movie with the words "God Bless Moore".

The bowling alley which was a bustling local hub is no more. The walls have blown out and the roof has collapsed. Through the rubble walks Aaron Chandler and his dog Taz. He's spent the day in the worst affected part of town.

Taz is a trained sniffer dog. He can find survivors. And he can find bodies. He worked for hours going house to house down the long streets. He found nothing. "Good and bad news I guess," says Aaron.

Insurers are already estimating the damage here could be $3bn - making it the most destructive tornado in US history.

Seventy five percent of the world's tornadoes land in the US. Oklahoma is one of the states which bears the brunt.

And this is still tornado season. It's why the people working here on the rescue effort watch the skies. There are forecasts for more storms, more tornadoes for Oklahoma and the town that's already suffered most.