Oklahoma tornado: Barack Obama says US ‘will not be broken’

Media playback is not supported on this device Emotional interview as Americans mourn victims of the Oklahoma tornado

President Barack Obama has told Americans to grieve with victims of the worst tornado disaster in their history as rescuers combed through the rubble in Oklahoma.

There were at least 24 confirmed fatalities, with more than 50 people injured in the horror near Moore, 50 miles (80km) south of Oklahoma City.

Rescuers worked to free at least two dozen people trapped under flattened buildings.

Many had attended a concert at the local baseball stadium.

Among the casualties was an Amazon warehouse worker, a florist who ran into her workplace to help others and a judge from nearby Oklahoma City.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warned of the “potentially catastrophic” storm, saying the tornado had swept from west to east across the county, also taking down major power lines and destroying many buildings.

Some residents who survived hailed a local grocery store clerk as a “hero” after he was hailed as one of the few people to survive.

‘Truly heartbroken’

“[This storm] actually hit about two miles away from my house. It came up in one direction then it went around,” survivor Amanda Warren told CNN.

“I mean the power was out because there were tree limbs all over the power lines so it did happen pretty quick.”

Shortly after the tornado hit, President Obama said he was “heartbroken” by the loss of life.

Mr Obama said he would visit Oklahoma on 22 September.

The devastation of the storm is clearly visible at the Plaza Towers Elementary School

Witnesses described hearing fierce winds and feeling the ground “shake” in their houses.

KFOR TV reported a resident saw a twister twister pass directly over the area, destroying homes and trees.

“It looked like it literally sucked it all out of the ground, and then it was gone,” Tracy Lamb told CNN.

Mr Obama added: “Whether a part of our community is destroyed, whether a part of our family is split apart, whether a part of our nation is shaken, we will not be broken.”

Blown to pieces

As city crews and neighbours worked to clear the debris left by the tornado, the flag on City Hall flew at half-mast.

At the Plaza Towers Elementary School, whose football field had stood since its 1954 opening, children were gathered before a football field full of rubble.

“We have children trapped in the debris. People are hurt. People are dying,” emergency official Rex Molitor told CNN.

The White House confirmed that people were killed in the Natural Resources Conservation Service office and a jail in the nearby town of El Reno.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said the Briarwood Church in Oklahoma City was also destroyed and parts of the Carnegie Mellon University campus and a building belonging to the Community National Bank were also damaged.

A man and a woman from the Forth Worth, Texas, area were killed, a hospital spokesman said. They were believed to have been walking through Moore when the tornado hit.

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