- (Photo: Reuters/Bill Waugh)
The death toll from this weekend's tornadoes and floods in Oklahoma and neighboring states is at least 9, including two children, authorities said Saturday as the storm, though now less severe, was moving toward Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and East Texas.
"At this time, our office can confirm nine fatalities from last night's tornadoes," Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer for Oklahoma's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, told AccuWeather.com. "These victims include two children and seven adults."
All but one of the victims were in a vehicle, apparently fleeing the storm Friday.
Three deaths were also reported from Missouri which were blamed mostly on flooding in the storms' aftermath, according to ABC News. As many as 12 tornadoes ripped through Missouri and Illinois.
One of the victims in Oklahoma was a 4-year-old girl, who died in floodwaters after escaping from the storm to a ditch along with her family.
In another incident, a mother and her baby died on Interstate 40, west of Oklahoma City, after the storm hit their car and sucked them out of it.
According to hospitals in Oklahoma City, at least 104 people received injuries and five of them were critical, NBC News said.
It is believed that at least five storms touched down in central Oklahoma, dumping around 20 centimeters of rain on the Oklahoma City area and causing flash flooding.
The system was moving east on Saturday, according to Weather Channel. Severe storms are possible Sunday and into next week, it warned.
The latest storms came about two weeks after a deadly tornado killed 24 people in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.
Churches, including Lifechurch.tv, which has campuses throughout Oklahoma, reached out to local residents to spiritually minister and offer physical relief to them after an EF5 tornado churned through the center of the state on May 20.
"Four children whose families are part of LifeChurch.tv were among the fatalities of the Moore tornado," Lori Bailey, director of communications for LifeChurch.tv, told The Christian Post last week. In total, 5,300 people in the area fall within the LifeChurch.tv community, and the church reported contacting 1,500 families over the phone following the twisters.
"As we make contact, we have learned of 82 families within our church whose homes have been lost," Bailey added. The church, one of the largest in America, reported working with "about 150 families personally," assigning one contact per family.
Last week, President Obama quoted the Bible as he toured the area and urged all Americans to "step up" their own aid.
The president called the devastation "pretty hard to comprehend," and reminded the people of Oklahoma that "everywhere, fellow Americans are praying with you, they're thinking about you, and they want to help..."
"I want to urge every American to step up. If I've got one message for folks here today: Go online, donate to the American Red Cross…," Obama said, and recalled a story "that really struck me in the press." It was about a Bible, open to Isaiah 32:2, that was found in the rubble. The verse read, "A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest."
"And it's a reminder, as Scripture often is, that God has a plan, and it's important, though, that we also recognize we're an instrument of his will," Obama said. "And we need to know that as fellow Americans, we're going to be there as shelter from the storm for the people of Moore who have been impacted."