That number was expected to creep upward again, and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said some bodies may have been taken directly to funeral homes. She said 237 people had been injured “so far as we know.”
Hope of finding survivors trapped in the ruins of the city faded as the day wore on, although officials had not despaired. John D. Doak, the state’s insurance commissioner, said late Tuesday afternoon that the hunt for survivors is “still a very active search.” He said he drove through the area and saw search teams with dogs. “I think they’re doing second and third passes through homes, which is absolutely the right thing to do,” he said.
In the heart of the devastation stood the remnants of Plaza Towers Elementary School. Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said he was told that seven students were killed there when a cinder-block wall collapsed on them during the tornado. Scores of children and their teachers survived by crowding into a girls’ restroom, with the teachers lying on top of children as 200-mph winds removed the roof as though it were made of cellophane.
Addison Roberts, 7, climbed out of the Plaza Towers debris unscathed, and Tuesday night sat eating dinner with her family in front of her destroyed home. She complained about the quality of the cheese on her turkey sandwich.
She was rock solid through all the turmoil, said her grandfather Jack Eldred. When her father came to pick her up after the tornado, “she was patting him on the back, saying, ‘It’s okay, Dad,’ ” he said.
“He was crying,” Addison said.
The city of 55,000, about 11 miles south on Interstate 35 from downtown Oklahoma City, is coping with the infrastructure and communication problems common after natural disasters: power failures, gas leaks, lack of water, poor cellphone service. An area of about four square miles was sealed to outsiders as first responders continued to search for victims amid heaps of wreckage.
One of the first things workers did Tuesday was put up street signs.
“You can’t tell where you’re at. The whole city looks like a debris field,” Lewis said Tuesday.
Said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, describing his thoughts while touring the damaged areas Tuesday: “No one possibly could have survived this. And yet, we know they did. We know people crawled out of that rubble. We’re talking levels of debris four feet high as far as the eye can see.”
Sue Ogrocki, an Associated Press photographer who raced to the scene Monday, saw first responders pull 12 children and two adults out from under collapsed walls, then hand them to parents, teachers and neighbors who formed a line.