Oklahoma tornado: Mayor of Moore pushes for shelter law

Oklahoma neighbours' desperate search for a six-year-old boy missing after tornado

The mayor of the tornado-devastated town of Moore in Oklahoma has vowed to push for a new law on shelters, after a huge twister there killed at least 24.

Glenn Lewis said he would propose an ordinance requiring a reinforced shelter to be built in every new home.

Volunteers are now engaged in a recovery mission - delivering supplies and helping people find accommodation.

The White House says that President Barack Obama will travel to Moore on Sunday.

The Oklahoma medical examiner's office said 23 of the 24 victims had now been identified and that 10 of them were children.

Officials are still searching for six adults who have not yet been accounted for.

Between 12,000 and 13,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said.

Disaster centres

Mr Lewis said he would propose the shelter ordinance in the next few days and was confident it would pass the six-member city council.

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The houses are broken (and the cars, and the school, and the street signs), but the people are not”

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The law would require a storm shelter or safe room in all single- and multi-family homes and could be in place in a few months.

"We'll try to get it passed as soon as I can," Mr Lewis told CNN.

An underground safe room can cost several thousand dollars.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond, in Oklahoma City, says there was no announcement from Mr Lewis on the use or construction of safe rooms in schools.

More than 100 schools in Oklahoma had been provided with state-funded safe rooms. But Plaza Towers Elementary - where seven of the children killed in the tornado died - and one other school hit by the storm, Briarwood Elementary, did not have them.

The tornado ripped the roof off Plaza Towers Elementary and knocked down walls as students and teachers cowered in hallways and bathrooms.

US media reaction

"One day at a time" is the headline in the Oklahoman online, over a banner aerial picture of the rubble of devastated homes. When Moore gets hit "we kick back" it quotes defiant residents as saying as they pick up the pieces.

Oklahoma City's Journal Record shows Governor Mary Fallin flying in a helicopter over the devastation in Moore to illustrate its report that the state legislature proposed providing $45m (£30m) from the Rainy Day Fund for relief efforts.

Local news channel KFOR-TV reports the heart-rending story of a single father who searched all night for his daughter only to find she had been killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Further afield, the New York Times carries a front-page picture gallery showing residents reacting to the destruction. It goes on to describe the minutes before the tornado struck in Plaza Towers - a teacher huddling pupils into the shelter of a bathroom as the sirens wailed.

In an opinion piece, USA Today suggests that, while forecasts and sirens undoubtedly saved many lives, more reinforced shelters should be built.

The tornado, which the National Weather Service (NWS) listed as an EF-5 - the most powerful type on the Fujita scale - destroyed entire blocks of Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb of 56,000 people. The twister packed winds of at least 200mph (320km/h).

Mr Lewis said he did not expect the death toll of 24 to rise.

Some 237 people were known to have been injured.

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma medical examiner's office said that all the children who died had now been identified - they ranged in age from four months to nine years.

Medical examiner's spokesman Amy Elliott said officials were still trying to contact the relatives of eight of the victims.

Hundreds of volunteer workers and federal officials have fanned out across the suburb to deliver food and other supplies to residents whose homes had been swept away.

Disaster centres have been set up and help given to people to assess what they have lost and what their immediate needs are.

Jerry Lojka, a spokesman for the Oklahoma emergency services, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that search-and-rescue dog teams would continue their work "to be sure nothing is overlooked", but he added: "There's going to be more of a transition to recovery."

Craig Fugate, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), told MSNBC: "Right now it's about getting people a place to stay that have lost their homes. So we're going to start going neighbourhood to neighbourhood and talking to people and seeing what they're going to need."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has travelled to Moore to monitor the assistance being provided to first responders.

At a press conference she urged people in need to register with Fema so that they could get assistance. Ms Napolitano said Fema would be in Moore long after the television cameras had left.

Residents are to be allowed back to what remains of their homes from 15:00 local time (21:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

One resident, Curtis Carver, was waiting for the go-ahead to return.

He told Agence France-Presse: "It was my home, my kids' home. Now it's gone. There's nothing left. It's a pile of sticks."

Tornado's cost

The NWS said the twister's path was 17 miles (27km) long and 1.3 miles wide and it battered Moore for about 45 minutes on Monday afternoon.

Residents were given 16 minutes' warning before the tornado touched down - officials said such advisories were usually issued eight to 10 minutes ahead of a twister.

Oklahoma insurance assessors have put the estimate of the damage caused at more than $2bn (£1.31bn).

Insurance department spokeswoman Calley Herth told the Associated Press this was based on initial visual evidence of the damage zone.

President Obama has declared a major disaster in Oklahoma and ordered federal authorities to join in the search efforts.

"The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground there for them, beside them as long as it takes for their homes and schools to rebuild," Mr Obama said from the White House.

Map of Moore, Oklahoma 20 May 2013

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