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Wednesday, May 5, 1999 Published at 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK

World: Americas

Press review: Devastation and disbelief

"I don't know that I'm going to live here anymore. That was too big to be real. It looked like something out of the Wizard of Oz."

That was the verdict of one resident of the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore quoted in USA Today.

The sense of incredulity at the enormity of the storms, voiced by residents of Tornado alley, was reported in many American newspapers.

The Los Angeles Times described it as one of the most powerful storm systems ever to hit the Midwest, chewing "through neighbourhood after neighbourhood, spawning twister after twister - including one with multiple funnel clouds, an extremely rare phenomenon - for 20 horrifying hours".

Returning to a new landscape

Reporters on the spot recounted the devastation of small communities and the disbelief of their inhabitants, who surveyed the aftermath. For many returning to salvage possessions, the Los Angeles Times reports, it was impossible to recognise their own street.

"To Casey File's astonishment, he found a letter on the ground that had been mailed, and apparently delivered, to Enid, a city an hour-and-a-half's drive away. He thought he was lost."

And the trail of the tornado left some bizarre and gruesome sights.

"My son saw a full-grown cow that had been impaled on a broken power pole," says Bridge Creek resident Jeanette Ralston quoted in the New York Times. "Just like a shish kebab."

Articles of faith

The newspapers all describe how animal carcasses litter America's farming heartland, but it is the discovery of human remains that really shocks.

"The bodies were so mangled. They must have come from someplace else," Mrs Ralston says. "They were completely nude. I think the wind had stripped them."

There are survivors' tales too. The Kansas City Star tells of a six-year-old boy whose mother was picked up by a twister as they ran for safety.

"When they found him he was wandering the road looking for his mother. She was found Tuesday afternoon, trapped beneath debris near her house. Though she had been missing for nearly 24 hours, she was in good condition."

Inevitably, many in this devout society find consolation, and even a message from the Almighty, as the New York Times observes.

"All the victims interviewed in Bridge Creek said the storm had done nothing to vanquish their Christian faith. 'That's why I can look at this an still have a smile on my face. Because I know who's in control of things'."

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