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For Oklahoma tornado survivors, shock follows storm

The powerful tornado that swept through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Monday left 24 dead. As survivors survey the wreckage, they contemplate their luck, faith and building construction. The community has seen four tornados since 1998. 

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Jacob Wright, a volunteer from Tulsa, prays with Rachel and Brad Schmoyer whose home was damaged in Moore, Okla. while they waited to re-enter the neighborhood Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

AP Photo/Tulsa World, Mike Simons

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Tornado survivors thanked God, sturdy closets and luck in explaining how they lived through the colossal twister that devastated an Oklahoma town and killed 24 people, an astonishingly low toll given the extent of destruction.

At least one family took refuge in a bathtub and some people shut themselves in underground shelters built into their houses when the powerful storm tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Monday.

While rescue workers and body-sniffing dogs sifted through the ruins on Wednesday, those who escaped told their stories of survival while trying to salvage what was left of their belongings.

"Yesterday I was numb. Today I cried a lot. Now I'm on the victory side of it," said Beth Vrooman, who hid in a shelter in her garage in Moore during the storm.

The tornado's winds exceeded 200 miles per hour (320 kph), flattened entire blocks and demolished two schools and a hospital on the storm's 17-mile (27-km), 50-minute rampage through central Oklahoma.

Of the 24 people killed, 10 were children, including seven who died at Plaza Towers Elementary School. About 320 others were injured. The youngest victim was 4 months old. The oldest was 63.

Authorities had said six people were unaccounted for early on Wednesday, but later in the day said all the missing had been found. Five of the six were alive and the sixth was dead but had already been included in the tornado's death toll of 24, Moore Police Chief Jerry Stillings said.

Listed as the highest category of storm - an EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale - the twister damaged or obliterated 12,000 to 13,000 homes and affected an estimated 33,000 people, said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

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