Moore, Oklahoma (CNN) — Rescue workers raced against time and the oncoming night Monday looking for survivors after a powerful tornado blasted an area outside of Oklahoma City, leveling homes and killing at least 51 people, according to the medical examiner.
Seven of the dead were children from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, which lay directly in the path of the monster storm’s wall of wind.
Seventy-five students and staff members had been huddled the school when the storm hit, CNN affiliate KFOR reported.
As nightfall approached, determined searchers in hard hats dug in the debris for students possibly trapped, but authorities described the work as a recovery, not rescue, effort.
A temporary flight restriction was put in place over the school so that aircraft would stay away and emergency officials on the ground might hear any cries for help, said Lynn Lunsford with the Federal Aviation Administration.
After the ear-shattering howl of the killer storm subsided, survivors along the miles of destruction emerged from shelters to see an apocalyptic vision — the remnants of cars twisted and piled on each other to make what had been a parking lot look like a junk yard. Bright orange flames flew from a structure that was blazing even as rain continued to fall.