ARLINGTON, Va., May 21, 2013 – Nearly 250 members of the Oklahoma National Guard are assisting with victim search and security today in Moore, Okla., where a monster tornado left at least 51 dead, including 20 children, authorities said.
The twister hit yesterday about 3:15 p.m. CDT, when children were still in two elementary schools in the Oklahoma City suburb.
The tornado, packing winds of up to 200 mph, tore off the roof of Plaza Towers Elementary School and pulverized walls. Volunteers joined first responders to help in rescuing children and staff from the devastation, the Associated Press reported.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin activated the airmen and soldiers yesterday. Among those responding was the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron from nearby Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City. In a video interview, Air Force 2nd Lt. Gabriel Bird said the unit members carried thermal imaging gear to help locate those buried in rubble.
“Hopefully, we’ll find survivors,” Bird said.
Members also carried basic medical supplies and multiband radios to communicate with ground and aircraft crews, Bird said.
“We’re a pretty new unit, so we haven’t supported any state emergencies,” Bird said. But he noted that many squadron members are veterans who have supported other disaster-recovery operations when assigned to other units.