PHL Embassy: Most of 10,800 Pinoys in Oklahoma affected by tornado-caused power outages
While no Filipino has so far been reported killed or injured in the wake of twisters that hit Oklahoma, many were affected by power outages caused by the bad weather, the Philippine Embassy in Washington said late Saturday.
In posts on its Twitter account, the embassy said it remains in touch with the Filipino community and is monitoring ongoing rescue efforts.
"(The) Filipino community says they have not heard of any Filipinos killed or injured by the twisters but many (were) affected by outages," it said.
The Consulate General in Chicago also maintained that no Filipinos had been reported affected so far by Friday's deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma.
Consul General in Chicago Leo Herrera-Lim is "in touch with (the) Filipino community in Oklahoma and is monitoring ongoing rescue efforts."
Herrera-Lim said there are 10,800 Filipinos in the state of Oklahoma
A report on Cable News Network said at least nine people had been killed in the wake of the tornadoes.
The tornadoes struck just 11 days after a twister ranked as EF5, the most powerful ranking, tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore and killed 24 people.
The latest storms dumped up to 8 inches (20 cm) of rain on the Oklahoma City area, causing flash flooding that submerged parts of the sprawling metropolitan area that is home to more than 1.3 million people.
Nearly two dozen people were rescued from areas cut off by rising water, the National Weather Service said.
More than 70 people were treated for storm-related injuries, Oklahoma hospital officials said.
Severe storms also hit neighboring Missouri, where Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Friday, and were forecast to move into Illinois on Saturday.
The devastation was caused by large, long-lasting thunderstorms known as supercells, which produce the strongest tornadoes, along with large hail.
Forecasters believe at least five tornadoes touched down in central Oklahoma, which survey teams were trying to verify, meteorologist Rick Smith said from the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma.
"Some of these tornadoes were wrapped in rain and they were difficult to see," Smith said.
Victims were on the roads
The tornadoes hit during the Friday evening rush hour and many of those hurt or killed were on the roadways.
Among the dead were a woman and her baby who were traveling on Interstate 40, just west of Oklahoma City, when their vehicle was picked up by the storm and they were sucked out of it, said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
One tornado rampaged down the interstate, tipping over trucks and hurling hay bales, a witness said. Television images showed downed power lines, tossed cars and motorists stranded in flood water.
"For reasons that are not clear to me, more people took to the roads, more than we expected. Everyone acted differently in this storm, and as a result, it created an extremely dangerous situation," said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
"I think we are still a little shaken by what happened in Moore. We are still burying children and victims, so our emotions are still strong," he added.
Brandi Vanalphen, 30, was among the hundreds of drivers trapped on traffic-snarled roads as she attempted to flee the tornado system menacing the suburb of Norman.
"What got me scared was being stuck in traffic with sirens going off," she said. "I started seeing power flashes to the north, and I said 'screw this.' I started driving on the shoulder. People started driving over the grass."
Moore had limited damage from the latest storm, said a police dispatcher for the city.
Elsewhere, homes were destroyed, roofs were torn off and power lines were ripped down. Work crews were repairing washed-out patches of roadways and removing downed trees in order to allow aid workers to get through.
Storms also swept into neighboring Missouri, where violent winds flipped over semi-trailer trucks on Interstate 70 between St. Louis and St. Charles County to the west, said Brett Lord-Castillo, spokesman for the St. Louis County Emergency Management Agency.
Hollywood Casino St. Louis was evacuated when part of its roof was blown off, Lord-Castillo said. No deaths or serious injuries were reported in the greater St. Louis area.
Power utilities Oklahoma Gas and Electric and Ameren said 200,000 customers were without power in Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois. — with Reuters/ELR, GMA News
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