Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin spoke directly to citizens in her devastated state Monday night, saying, ‘We are looking under every single piece of debris” for the missing after a massive tornado ripped apart the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.
“Our hearts are broken for the parents that are wondering about the state of their children that had been in the schools that have been hit today,” Fallin said. “I know that there are families wondering where their loved ones are.”
The tornado, which touched down Monday afternoon, killed at least 24 people, many of them children, according to the state medical examiner’s office, which warned that the number is likely to rise through the night.
Fallin, a Republican, said she had called out the National Guard and declared federal emergencies in 21 counties affected by tornadoes that began hitting the state Sunday evening. The Monday tornado churned on the ground for 40 minutes over a 20 mile swath of destruction.
Fallin said an “enormous amount” of buildings were damaged or destroyed. She urged residents of the city of Moore to stay away from the emergency scenes.
She said President Barack Obama had offered assistance and that state officials were already in touch with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Search and rescue teams were coming in from out of state, she said, as well as teams of rescue dogs.
“We will bring in every single resource that we can,” Fallin said.
As night fell in Moore, emergency officials said search and rescue teams would work though the night. Dozens of responders were digging through high piles of debris at the shattered Plaza Towers Elementary School, which took a direct hit.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by the tornadoes and severe weather in Oklahoma, especially the families and loved ones of those killed, injured or missing,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement She pledged all available federal resources to the state.