/ 21 May 2013

Oklahoma tornado: Eyewitness accounts

The tornado sweeps through Oklahoma City.
The tornado sweeps through Oklahoma City.

While weather forecasters and news channels reported on the magnitude of the tornado that hit Oklahoma city, local residents used their smartphones to capture footage of the twister and shared it on social media networks like Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Many inhabitants heeded the city's warning of strong winds and sought shelter, but some remained in the shadow of the tornado and shared terrifying footage of the dark, three-kilometre wide cone of wind that swept through heavily populated suburbs.

According to reports the tornado has already claimed 91 lives. Emergency crews and residents continued to comb through the rubble of debris the tornado has left behind and it is expected that the death toll will rise. 

We take a look at a collection of the top nine eyewitness videos and photographs of the Oklahoma tornado, from the people of Oklahoma.

1. This YouTube video captured the twister, which was approaching at such a high speed that the video had to be cut short to escape it.

2. Twitter user @DanGordon shared his friend's photograph, which was shot from his friend's car's side mirror while leaving town.


3. An elderly woman is reunited with her dog after it finds its way out of the debris of the resident's collapsed home.

4. Instagram user @benikereo shared this image of the tornado tearing through the city and asked fellow Instagrammers to #prayforOklahoma.


5.  David Massey used the video sharing app Vine to capture the devastation that surrounded him after the tornado struck.

6. The executive editor of Reuters Digital, Jim Roberts, shared inspiring pictures of the surviving kids who emerged from the ruins of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, a community of 55 000 just south of Oklahoma's state capital.  

7. This ominous picture was snapped up by Instagram user @DarcyJaneen from Lawton, a town just outside  Oklahoma City.


8. In this YouTube clip shared by a group called Basehunters – who specialise in chasing storms and capturing footage – you can hear the roar of the twister. In the close-ups, you can see torn bits of houses and other materials flying around as the tornado rips through them.

9. This Twitter user shares an image of rescue workers continuing their search through one of the town's collapsed elementary schools in the hope of finding more survivors.

Several videos like these, portraying the magnitude of the disaster, have been shared so extensively on social networks that they have reached viral status – helping to bring awareness and aid to this tornado-torn town. 

And while the path to rebuild has just begun, people from across the world continue to share their support and condolences by tweeting messages that carry the tag #prayforOklahoma.