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Oklahoma tornadoes: how you can help (+video)

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(Read caption) How the Red Cross is helping in Oklahoma
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A number of relief organizations are responding to the disaster in Moore, Okla., where a devastating tornado destroyed hundreds of homes Monday, hit at least two elementary schools hard, and killed at least 24 people. The general public can help with recovery efforts through these organizations, which already are helping families and supporting the first responders.

The American Red Cross has opened shelters in Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, and it has deployed emergency response vehicles to provide hot meals for displaced people and emergency workers. To support the relief efforts, the Red Cross is accepting online donations. People can send the text message “REDCROSS” to 90999 to immediately donate $10, or they can call 800-REDCROSS.

The Salvation Army has also sent disaster response teams to Moore, including mobile feeding units. It is working in several counties in Oklahoma affected by tornadoes both Sunday and Monday. It is accepting online donations, and it also has a text-message donation option: text “STORM” to 80888. Donate via phone by calling 800-SALARMY.

The United Way of Central Oklahoma has set up a fund for people to directly support the tornado recovery efforts of its partner agencies working in Moore and Shawnee, Okla. The organization prefers online donations

Save the Children says it's sending help to affected families in Moore, providing kits for shelters to create safe play zones for children, as well as hygiene materials for infants and toddlers. Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles says experience shows that children are most vulnerable during emergencies. Donate online or call 800-728-3843.

Operation USA is a Los Angeles-based relief agency that provides emergency aid to community-based health organizations. It is also collecting corporate donations of bulk quantities of disaster-appropriate supplies to distribute in Oklahoma. Donate online, send the text message “AID” to 50555, or call 800-678-7255.

The Southern Baptist Convention has deployed more than 80 volunteers to support disaster relief efforts. It provides various services including cleanup, tree removal, laundry services, and food for victims. The Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief ministry accepts online donations, or people can call (405) 942-3800.

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Beyond the official relief organizations and first responders, Oklahoma officials are asking people to keep the damaged areas clear.

“I want to encourage all Oklahomans that can to stay away. We have lots of law enforcement, emergency personnel that are working on the sites,” Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said Monday.

Governor Fallin deployed the Oklahoma National Guard to the disaster areas and has called for out-of-state search-and-rescue teams to assist in the recovery efforts. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) sent an elite search-and-rescue team including hazardous material specialists, structural engineers, and 70 first responders who are trained in victim extraction and medical treatment. The same team responded to the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, last month.

President Obama declared Oklahoma a major disaster area and ordered federal aid be sent to help local and state responders. “As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue, and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead,” he said at a press conference Tuesday morning.

Federal Emergency Management Agency director Craig Fugate is to arrive in the state Tuesday to oversee the distribution of federal aid.

Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, who was also mayor during a similar devastating tornado in 1999, said the city was quickly beginning work on the recovery.

"We've already started printing the street signs," he said. "It took 61 days to clean up after the 1999 tornado. We had a lot of help then. We've got a lot of help now.”

 Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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