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Oklahoma survivors begin rebuilding
May 22, 2013, 8:26 pm

President Obama will visit the counties hit by the Tornado [Xinhua]

President Obama will visit the counties hit by the tornado [Xinhua]

Survivors of the devastating Oklahoma tornado are now focusing on rebuilding as rescue operations draw near to an end.

But residents of Moore, Oklahoma are still mourning the 27 people killed, 10 of whom were children attending an elementary school, when a tornado blasted through the city.

The White House announced Wednesday that President Barack Obama will visit the struck areas on Sunday.

The tornado reportedly ripped through Moore in the southern part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area Monday afternoon, devastating homes and buildings.

The state medical examiner’s office said 24 people were confirmed dead, including nine children.

Earlier reports of at least 51 deaths were erroneous, said Amy Elliot, chief administrative officer for the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The earlier number likely reflected some double-counted deaths, said Elliot.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said the death toll could rise because some bodies may have been taken to funeral homes without the government’s knowledge.

At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Fallin said the twister was one of the “most horrific storms and disasters that this state has ever faced.” All that remained in some places were “sticks and bricks,” she said.

The tornado carved a trail through the area as much as two miles wide (3.2 kilometres) and 17 miles (27.36 kilometres) long, officials said.

Thunderstorms and lightning slowed the rescue effort Tuesday. But more than 100 people had reportedly been pulled from the debris alive.

Firefighters from local fire departments and rescuers from other states worked all night trying to find survivors, and the search and rescue continued on Tuesday.

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 US National Weather Service.