Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pakistan college pays tribute to Rabindranath Tagore

In a rare mark of respect, a college in Pakistan has organised a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore marking the centenary of the poet’s winning the Nobel prize for literature. Participants offered renditions of Tagore’s poetry in song and recitation, web portal ibnlive reported. The Department of History at Lahore’s Forman Christian College and the Ewing Literary Society organised the programme on Monday. Born on May 7, 1861 in Kolkata, Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 as the first non-European and also the first South Asian. 'Gitanjali'(Song Offerings), Tagore’s collection of poems, was the main body of work that secured him the honour. His poetry was revisited in songs and recitations. Clips from a documentary by Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray were screened. The event included narration of a short story by the writer. "Amar Sonar Bangla", the national anthem of Bangladesh, was recited at the end of the programme in Bengali, English and Urdu. The versatile writer was once banned in erstwhile East Pakistan. Department of History Chairperson Yaqoob Bangash said the poet was a “strong patriot though he was not a big supporter of nationalism”, the web portal reports.Tagore had returned his knighthood to protest the killings at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. He wrote matchless poetry, novels, plays, operas and philosophical tracts and even made fine paintings, Bangash was further quoted. At the age of 17, Tagore was sent to London for formal schooling but he came back without a degree. Waseem Anwar, Dean of Humanities Department at Forman Christian College, said the poet set up the Shantiniketan "to promote his ideas on education”. It later developed into the Visva-Bharati. Tagore inspired generations of people, including Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was inspired by the poem, "Ekla Chalo Re" (go your own way alone), he said. China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang, during a recent visit to India, amid broiling border tensions, said he has great respect for Tagore. "I have read Tagore in Chinese and I find his world view amazing," the Chinese premier had said. Translating Tagore is almost a 100-year-old tradition in China, Chitralekha Basu, who has followed the trend, said. Now, for the first time, the poet’s complete works are being translated directly from Bengali into Chinese by a group of Chinese scholars. The first five volumes had hit the market two years ago, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the poet's birth, and all 24 volumes are expected to come out by 2015.

More Afghan women jailed for 'moral crimes', says HRW

The number of women and girls in Afghanistan imprisoned for "moral crimes" has risen by 50% in the past 18 months, a rights group says. Human Rights Watch says many are jailed for running away from home, often from forced marriages or domestic violence. Others are behind bars as a result of alleged adultery, in truth often involving rape, it said. The government should "get tough on abusers of women and stop blaming women who are crime victims", said HRW. It said 600 women and girls were now imprisoned for "moral crimes" - the highest since the US-led overthrow of the Taliban 12 years ago. About 110 of those were girls under 18.
Virginity tests
Human Rights Watch's alert comes just three days after angry scenes in the Afghan parliament forced a halt to a debate about reinforcing a law to prevent violence against women. The law banning violence against women, child marriages and forced marriages was passed by presidential decree in 2009, but did not gain MPs' approval. Some women's activists had worried that by opening up the law for debate might risk it being watered down or even repealed. Human Rights Watch says many of the protections within the Elimination of Violence Against Women law - which bans forced and underage marriage, beatings and rape - are still not being implemented on the ground. "Four years after the adoption of a law on violence against women and 12 years after Taliban rule, women are still imprisoned for being victims of forced marriage, domestic violence, and rape," Brad Adams, HRW Asia director, was quoted as saying. It said many of those detained for so-called moral crimes had attempted to report rapes to police only to be arrested for adultery, while others fleeing forced marriages or abuse were jailed for running away from home - even though that is not a crime according to the Afghan criminal code. And it said that many of those accused of "moral crimes" were subjected to "virginity tests" with no medical basis which contravened international law. "Coerced 'virginity' examinations are a form of sexual assault," Mr Adams said. "Afghan police, without any scientific basis, are routinely forcing these unspeakable examinations on women and girls." One prisoner, Sorya, told HRW she was forced to marry at 12 and was abused by her husband. After nine years of marriage during which she had three children, he accused her of running away with another man whom she had not even met. HRW said Sorya was serving a sentence of five-and-a-half years in prison. She was pregnant at the time of her arrest, and her baby died in prison three weeks after he was born.
HRW's Afghanistan researcher, Heather Barr, said the dramatic increase in prosecutions for "moral crimes" could be related to increased confidence among religious conservatives as international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan in 2014. "I think it's possible that as everyone anticipates the departure of foreigners, there is a feeling that in a sense things can go back to normal, and... people will be free to ignore [women's rights] in the future,'' Ms Barr told AP news agency. "If that's true, that's really is a tragedy, because these ideas didn't come from foreigners. These ideas came from Afghan women's rights activists,'' she said. HRW called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to issue a decree that running away should not be treated as a crime and instruct police to investigate possible incidents of violence against women. It urged international donors to pressure the government to improve women's protections. The Afghan interior ministry says it is preparing a response to Human Rights Watch's report.

Hindus living 'dangerously' in Balochistan

Though Hindus have richly contributed in the economic prosperity and development of Pakistan's restive Balochistan province since pre-partition days, they are today faced with the dilemma of survival and living "dangerously". Historically, it is not clear in documents to assert how and when Hindus originally settled in Balochistan. But the Balochistan-based Baloch and Hindu historians and writers agree that Hindus have been living here since time immemorial along with Buddhists, according to columnist Muhammad Akbar Notezai of the Daily Times. He says Hindus ruled Balochistan before the invasion of the Arabs in 712 AD. In his article, "The Balochistan Hindus' dilemma", Notezai says today "Hindus are considered low caste. They are treated unequally and as second grade citizens. They are living isolated lives in their separate localities. They do not have the right to vote. The standard of their children's education is abysmal." In Balochistan, Hindus have two ancient sacred places -- the Hinglaj Shrine in Lasbela district, and Kali Devi, dedicated to Goddess Kali, in Kalat town. During partition, communal riots were rampant in the subcontinent but Hindus lived harmoniously and peacefully in the princely state of Balochistan, which was under Yar Muhammad Khan, the chief ruler of the Kalat state. He respected the indigenousness of Hindus while giving them economic and religious freedom. Thus, the Hindus did not leave Balochistan during partition of the subcontinent. Though Hindus lived amicably with the Baloch and Pashtuns, many had to leave Balochistan's Pashtun belt to settle in Baloch-populated areas or migrated to India after partition. In 1941, the Hindu population was 54,000 in Balochistan's Pashtun belt which soon dwindled by as much as 93 per cent after 1947. Notezai, quoting a prominent Hindu intellectual Sham Kumar, writes that in contemporary times "Hindus are now facing a situation worse in Baloch residing places than they had to face in the past living in Pashtun residing places". "Because the Baloch elders, who would show great respect for their neighbourhood Hindus, are no longer living in this world, or they have become very old." For Baolchistan's economic prosperity and development, Hindus have built schools, libraries and hospitals. Many of the educated Hindus have been offering services in health, education and other sectors. The Daily Times article said it is profoundly shocking that Hindus are now living dangerously in Balochistan". "They cannot even perform their religious practices freely due to the nightmarish situation where they interminably fear for their lives, faith, honour and property." "Hindus, in spite of being Balochistan's peaceful and largest minority, are running from their old 'motherland' to escape persecution, because their lives are in a precarious and worsened condition these days." "In Balochistan, it was the 1990s period that turned into a great conflagration for Hindus. After that, gradually the Hindus' manifold problems, whether it was abduction, religious persecution, migration or killing, all of them have been intensifying." "Many Hindu families have migrated to India, inside Pakistan to Karachi, and interior Sindh. But they are economically living a pathetic life in these places. There are many more Hindus who still utter the words 'migration' and 'insecurity' in Balochistan." In Balochistan, there has been mass Hindu migration from the districts of Kalat, Khuzdar, Quetta, Mastung, Lasbela, Hub, Nushki, and Dalbandin. According to Dr Shah Muhammad Marri, a well-known Baloch historian, "This land has been burning for the last 30 years. It has become an inferno for all the castes." "Same is the case with the Hindus, the Christians, the Hazaras, the Baloch and the Pashtuns. All of them are migrating from pillar to post to find a safe place." Balochistan's Minority Minister Basant Lal Gulshan, a Hindu, however, denies reports of Hindus migrating from Balochistan. The government officials, on the other hand, say majority of Hindus who have been migrating from Balochistan or the country are economically sound. They see a bright future for their children in India. "But it is worth mentioning here that 90 per cent of the Hindus of Balochistan are unsound economically. They cannot afford to leave their indigenous places and settle somewhere else, especially India." Notezai wrote: "... a sane person or community would never give up their connections to their place of birth until or unless circumstances compel them." Hindus - whose exact numbers are not known - also complain that their sufferings hardly and rarely get discussed in mainstream media. They rely on private TV channels to highlight their sufferings. Nearly 35 Hindus were killed during former dictator General Pervez Musharraf's regime where he launched the fifth military operation against Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the former chief minister of Balochistan. Bugti used to keep the Hindus in proximity to his legendary fort in Dera Bugti to safeguard them from criminal elements. "That is why many Hindus, mainly women and children, were killed and sustained severe injuries in the assault against Nawab Bugti on March 17, 2005." To a lesser extent, the last government would also be held responsible for the Hindus' sufferings. "That is why the incoming government should be civilised and democratically elected so that Hindus may find a solution to their tragic dilemma," said Notezai.

Pakistan: Christian student killed by firing of Muslims in native village of Shahbaz Bhatti

A Christian village named Khushpur in sub-district Samundari of Faisalabad district came under attack of Muslims on May 19, 2013, killing one Christian student of 10th Grade and injuring many Christian by firing. Father Felix, a European missionary who established a number of villages like Mariamabad in Shekhupura district, Francisabad in Shorkot, Jhang district in Pakistan. “Felix” is the Latin word for "happy". The village was thus given the name of "Khushpur" in Urdu, the "land of Fr Felix" or “land of Happiness”. Many important Catholic public figures come from the village in government records shown as Chak Number 451/GB; people like Bishop John Joseph, Bishop Rufin Anthony, Ilama Paul Ernest, and Shahbaz Bhatti were born and raised in this remote village; On information of Muslims attack, contingents of police reached to village and prevented further Muslim killing. Faisal Patras, a Christian student of class 10th of High School was killed by firing of Muslims while Danish Masih who is brother of Faisal Patras and Patras Masih father of deceased was seriously injured with bullet wounds when trying to safe Faisal Patras. After agricultural revolution in Pakistan, many Christians peasants of these Christian villages in Punjab province of Pakistan which were distributed without any cost by Catholic and other missionaries moved to cities and sold this gifted land to Muslims. Muslim attack was on a petty dispute on a piece of land which Christian of Khushpur have sold to Muslims. According to Samundari Social Media Network, there was killing of one Christian in other Christian village Chack Number 468/GB in this district one months ago by firing of Muslims and killers are at large, this other killing happened. Mr. Khalid Gill, Chief Organizer of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance APMA have strongly condemned attack on village Khushpur and killing of a Christian student. Mr. Gill have demanded immediate arrest of killers and security of the Christians which are under constant attack of Muslims in Punjab province of Pakistan.

Pakistan's Ahmadis Face Rising Persecution, Violence

One of the many religious minorities whose plight is documented in the latest U.S. State Department report on religious freedom is the Ahmadiyya community, or the Ahmadis. The Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim, but that is a view rejected by mainstream Islamic sects. And in Pakistan, as RFE/RL correspondents Daud Khattak and Frud Bezhan report, Ahmadis have come under assault not only from extremist religious groups but also from the government. Pakistan’s minority Ahmadi sect has become the target of rising sectarian violence, with its burial grounds, mosques, and homes coming under assault. Authorities have done little to stem the attacks, with the government still refusing to grant the community equal status. Those were the findings documented by the U.S. State Department’s 2012 International Religious Freedom Report, which was released on May 20. The report said Pakistan's Ahmadis, who number between 2-4 million, are being harassed, detained, and banned from practicing their faith. Under Pakistani law, the Ahmadis cannot refer to themselves as Muslims or engage in any Muslim practices, including using Islamic greetings, calling their places of worship mosques, or participating in the hajj, or holy pilgrimage. Ahmadis risk imprisonment for up to three years and a fine if they break those laws, according to the report. According to Ameer Mehmood, who is a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya community, the Pakistani government’s "anti-Ahmadi laws" have helped foster a climate of violence with authorities doing little to stop attacks against Ahmadis. “There is no safety for Ahmadis in Pakistan," he says. "It is because the laws against Ahmadis are not only providing a base for extremist elements of society, but also for the government of Pakistan to file cases against Ahmadis on the basis of those laws and to harass them.” There are roughly 10 million Ahmadis around the world. The group's members are followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the man who founded the movement in British India in 1889 and who Ahmadis believe was a messiah and prophet. For the mainstream Islamic sects, that contradicts a cornerstone of their faith -- that Muhammad was the final prophet.
Systematic Persecution
Those beliefs have seen the Ahmadis come under pressure in a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, the State Department report says. In Pakistan, members of the community have been systematically persecuted by both mainstream Muslim sects and the government. In the 1970s, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto passed an amendment to the Pakistani Constitution declaring that anyone who does not believe Muhammad was the last prophet would be deemed a non-Muslim. Under the rule of military dictator Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, practicing the Ahmadi faith was declared a "blasphemous" criminal offense. Mehmood says that Ahmadis are denied fundamental human rights such as access to education and the right to vote. He claims Pakistani laws put pressure on Ahmadis to renounce their beliefs to gain the same rights as other Pakistanis. An Ahmadi graveyard in Lahore where grave stones have been vandalized. The U.S. State Department’s report says, “Those wishing to be listed as Muslims on their national identity card, which is needed to vote, must swear their belief that the Prophet Muhammad is the final prophet and denounce the Ahmadi Muslim movement’s founder as a false prophet and his followers as non-Muslim.” Ahmadis are only allowed to vote for parliamentary seats reserved for non-Muslims and, since they refuse to declare themselves non-Muslims, they do not vote. "For Ahmadis, discrimination starts with birth and continues until death," says Mehmood. "It occurs not only in employment but even in educational institutions. A student is only a student and he does not preach anything. But Ahmadis are being expelled from educational institutions. Then they are being deprived of the right to live, which is the basic right of every human being. Then after death, it is the right of every individual to be buried with respect, but I think Ahmadis are not safe even in their graves after death in Pakistan."
Stark Choice
Mehmood maintains that Ahmadis have been particularly harassed by extremist religious groups. He claims such groups have issued fatwas, or religious edicts, calling for Ahmadis to be killed. "There are both good and bad people in every society," he says. "But the tragedy is that the extremist elements, though small in number, have taken the whole Pakistani society hostage. They are spreading hate against Ahmadis in open conferences where they issue fatwas to kill Ahmadis. They ask for Pakistanis to boycott Ahmadis and thus Ahmadis cannot follow their faith or properly carry out other business related to their faith." Even mainstream politicians have added to the marginalization of the group. On May 4 Imran Khan, the cricket star turned politician, said during a campaign rally that he did not regard Ahmadis as Muslims and would not campaign for their votes. Mehmood suggests that Ahmadis face a stark choice in Pakistan. They can follow their faith and risk persecution and death or they can convert or leave the country. Thousands of Ahmadis from the subcontinent have left, with large communities now living in Britain and the United States. “Of course, this is becoming a very common thing in Pakistani society," Mehmood says. "They are holding open conference and issuing threats that Ahmadis have one choice [to stop following their faith]. Then they issue statements in the Pakistani media saying Ahmadis have two choices: Either join other Muslims or leave Pakistan.”

Li Keqiang hails Pakistan as China's 'iron brother'

Describing Pakistan as the "iron brother" of China, Premier Li Keqiang today hailed Islamabad's "positive contribution" towards maintaining peace and stability, combating terrorism and promoting development in South Asia. Heading to Pakistan tomorrow after his successful visit to India, Li promised to announce a number of lucrative deals to firm up 'all-weather' ties between the two long-time allies. Li termed Pakistan as an "iron brother" of China saying Beijing recognised the positive contribution Pakistan has made for peace and stability, combating terrorism and promoting development in South Asia, in an interview with Pakistani media ahead of his visit. "The international community should give Pakistan full understanding, recognition and necessary support," official Associated Press of Pakistan news agency quoted him as saying. "On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to reiterate solemnly China's continued firm support to Pakistan in its efforts to uphold independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and achieve national stability and development. This is what China-Pakistan comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation is all about," he said. During his two-day stay in Islamabad, Li will hold talks with PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif who is set to form the next government, besides President Asif Ali Zardari. He will also meet leaders of Pakistan's parliament, political parties and armed forces, officials here said. About all-weather ties between the two countries, Li said "China-Pakistan relationship is indeed special, because it transcends the changes of the times and politics and represents a fine example of friendly state-to-state interactions". "I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate to the Pakistani people and the international community that the new Chinese government will continue to pursue a policy of friendship with Pakistan," he said apparently playing down the significance of China's interest in cultivating close ties with India, Pakistan's arch-rival. Like during his India visit, he also recalled his visit to Pakistan as leader of a youth delegation 27 years ago where he had unforgettable memories. "When it comes to Pakistan, the first word that comes to the mind of the Chinese is "iron brother". To us Chinese, Pakistan is always a trustworthy friend who is as solid as iron. Actually, Chinese netizens refer to Pakistan as "Iron Pak". This testifies to the strength of China-Pakistan friendship," he said. He promised to address the trade imbalance with Pakistan. Pakistan's exports to China last year increased by nearly 50 per cent, he said. "The political bond between China and Pakistan is unbreakable and our business ties as a whole have maintained growth momentum. Pakistan is the first South Asian country to sign a free trade agreement and currency swap agreement with China," he said. China will step up consultations with Pakistan on second phase tax reduction negotiations under the framework of China-Pakistan Free Trade Area. "Our two sides should focus on carrying out priority projects in connectivity, energy development and power generation and promoting the building of a China-Pakistan economic corridor," he said. About China's policy towards South Asia, Li said it is important to boost the development of South Asia saying it is a vibrant and promising region and peace, stability and development are the common pursuit of countries in this region. He said, China shares borders with five South Asian countries. China's destiny is closely connected with that of South Asian countries in both good and hard times, Li said. "We hope that countries in the region will live in friendship and cooperation and build South Asia into a land of unity, stability, happiness and harmony," he said.

President Obama Speaks on the Tornadoes and Severe Weather in Oklahoma

Oklahoma City tornado: Governor says 237 injured; death toll could rise

The massive tornado that devastated an area near Oklahoma City injured 237 people and the number of dead may rise beyond the current official count of 24, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said today. "We don't have any firm numbers on the numbers of deaths that have been experienced," Fallin said during a news conference. "There may have been bodies that may have been taken to local funeral homes." Officials said today that nine of the 24 people confirmed to have been killed in Moore, Okla., on Monday were children. Seven children died at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which took a direct hit, but many more survived unhurt."They literally were lifting walls up and kids were coming out," Oklahoma State Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis said. "They pulled kids out from under cinder blocks without a scratch on them." The Oklahoma state medical examiner's office said 24 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage, down from the 51 they had reported earlier. The earlier number likely reflected some double-counted deaths, said Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer for the medical examiner. "There was a lot of chaos," she said. The 2-mile wide tornado tore through Moore outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, trapping victims beneath the rubble. Thunderstorms and lightning slowed the rescue effort today, but 101 people had been pulled from the debris alive, Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said. Firefighters from more than a dozen fire departments and rescuers from other states worked all night under bright spotlights trying to find survivors. President Barack Obama declared a major disaster area in Oklahoma, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local efforts in Moore after the deadliest U.S. tornado since 161 people were killed in Joplin, Missouri, two years ago. "The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, as long as it takes," Obama said at the White House. He dispatched Federal Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate to Oklahoma, the White House said. Glenn Lewis, the mayor of Moore, said the whole town looked like a "debris field" and there was a danger of electrocution and fire from downed power lines and broken natural gas lines. "It looks like we have lost our hospital. I drove by there a while ago and it's pretty much destroyed," Lewis told NBC. The National Weather Service assigned the twister a preliminary ranking of EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, meaning the second most powerful category of tornado with winds up to 200 mph. The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center warned the town 16 minutes before the tornado touched down at 3:01 p.m., which is more than the average eight to 10 minutes of warning, said Keli Pirtle, a spokeswoman for the center in Norman, Oklahoma.
School tragedy
Firefighters from more than a dozen fire departments worked all night under bright spotlights trying to find survivors at Plaza Towers school. Rescuers were sent from other states to join the search. "It looks like we have lost our hospital. I drove by there a while ago and it's pretty much destroyed," Lewis said. There was an outpouring of grief on Plaza Towers' Facebook page, with messages from around the country including one pleading simply: "Please find those little children." U.S. Representative Tom Cole, who lives in Moore, said the Plaza Tower school was the most secure and structurally strong building in the area. "And so people did the right thing, but if you're in front of an F4 or an F5 there is no good thing to do if you're above ground. It's just tragic," he said on MSNBC TV. Another elementary school, homes and a hospital were among the buildings leveled in Moore, leaving residents of the town of about 55,000 people 11 miles south of Oklahoma City stunned at the devastation and loss of life. Many residents were left without power and water.Witnesses said Monday's tornado appeared more fierce than the giant twister that was among the dozens that tore up the area on May 3, 1999, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. That tornado ranked as an EF5 tornado with wind speeds of more than 200 mph. The 1999 tornado ranks as the third-costliest tornado in U.S. history, having caused more than $1 billion in damage at the time, or more than $1.3 billion in today's dollars. Only the devastating Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes in 2011 were more costly. Monday's tornado in Moore ranks among the most severe in the United States. Jeff Alger, 34, who works in the Kansas oil fields on a fracking crew, said his wife Sophia took their children out of school when she heard a tornado was coming and then fled Moore and watched it flatten the town from a few miles away. "They didn't even have time to grab their shoes," said Alger, who has five children aged 4 to 11. The storm tore part of the roof off of his home. He was with his wife at Norman Regional Hospital to have glass and other debris removed from his wife's bare feet. Moore was devastated with debris everywhere, street signs gone, lights out, houses destroyed and vehicles tossed about as if they were toys. The dangerous storm system threatened several southern Plains states with more twisters.
Saved by cellphone
Speaking outside Norman Regional Hospital Ninia Lay, 48, said she huddled in a closet through two storm alerts and the tornado hit on the third. "I was hiding in the closet and I heard something like a train coming," she said under skies still flashing with lightning. The house was flattened and Lay was buried in the rubble for two hours until her husband Kevin, 50, and rescuers dug her out. "I thank God for my cell phone, I called me husband for help." Her 7-year-old daughter Catherine, a first-grader at Plaza Towers Elementary School, took shelter with classmates and teachers in a bathroom when the tornado hit and destroyed the school. She escaped with scrapes and cuts. At Southmoore High School in Moore, about 15 students were in a field house when the tornado hit. Coaches sent them to an interior locker room and made them put on football helmets, the Oklahoman newspaper said. It said the students survived. The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center warned the town 16 minutes before the tornado touched down at 3:01 p.m., which is greater than the average eight to 10 minutes of warning, said Keli Pirtle, a spokeswoman for the center in Norman, Oklahoma. The notice was upgraded to emergency warning with "heightened language" at 2:56 p.m., or five minutes before the tornado touched down, Pirtle said. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration imposed a temporary flight restriction that allowed only relief aircraft in the area, saying it was at the request of police who needed quiet to search for buried survivors. Oklahoma activated the National Guard, and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency activated teams to support recovery operations and coordinate responses for multiple agencies. Briarwood Elementary School, which also stood in the storm's path, was all but destroyed. On the first floor, sections of walls had been peeled away, giving clear views into the building; while in other areas, cars hurled by the storm winds were lodged in the walls.

Video: Oklahoma tornado filmed by Newcastle resident

Oklahoma tornado leaves massive path of death, destruction; at least 51 dead

Clinging to the hope of finding more survivors, rescue workers raced overnight scouring mountains of rubble where houses and schools once stood-- even as the sobering death toll continued to climb. The vicious tornado that tore across central Oklahoma on Monday has killed at least 51 people -- with about 40 more bodies expected to arrive at the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office, Amy Elliott of the coroner's office said. The official death toll will gradually rise as the bodies are processed.At least 20 of those killed were children, including seven from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore -- the site of a frantic search early Tuesday morning. About 75 students and staff members hunkered down in the school when the tornado hit, CNN affiliate KFOR reported. The school in the direct path of the monster storm's fury. A father of a third-grader still missing sat on a stool outside. Tears cascaded from his face as he waited quietly for any news. Even parents of survivors couldn't wrap their minds around the tragedy. "I'm speechless. How did this happen? Why did this happen?" Norma Bautista asked. "How do we explain this to the kids? ... In an instant, everything's gone."Across Moore, even the city's main hospital fell victim to the tornado. "Our hospital has been devastated," Mayor Glenn Lewis said. "We had a two-story hospital, now we have a one. And it's not occupiable." So dozens of wounded had to be rushed to other hospitals. At least 145 people were taken to three area hospitals. That number includes 45 children taken to the children's hospital at Oklahoma University Medical Center, Dr. Roxie Albrecht said. Injuries ranged from minor to severe, including impalement and crushing injuries.Even for a city hardened by massive tornadoes, no one in Moore had seen this kind of devastation. The suburb recovered from a fierce twister in 1999 that killed six people there and dozens in the area. When that tornado struck, it was the most devastating in history in terms of wind speed, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Tom Lamb said. This time, the 2-mile-wide twister stayed on the ground for a full 45 minutes. The death toll has far surpassed anything the area has seen from a tornado -- and is expected to climb. "Our worst fears are becoming realized," Bill Bunting of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center said Monday afternoon. The preliminary rating of damage created by the tornado is at least EF4, meaning it had winds between 166 and 200 mph, according to the National Weather Service. After the ear-shattering howl of the killer storm subsided, survivors along the miles of destruction emerged from shelters to see an apocalyptic vision -- the remnants of cars twisted and piled on each other to make what had been a parking lot look like a junk yard. Many survivors in the city looked like zombies, unable to process the breadth of the tragedy, KFOR reporter Scott Hines said. Hiding in refrigerators Hines said rescuers found a 7-month-old baby and its mother hiding in a walk-in refrigerator. But they didn't survive. Track current severe weather At the devastated hospital in Moore, some doctors had to jump in a freezer to survive, Lamb said. Lando Hite, shirtless and spattered in mud, described how the storm pummeled the Orr Family Farm in Moore, which had about 80 horses. "It was just like the movie 'Twister,'" he told KFOR. "There were horses and stuff flying around everywhere."
'This is not over yet'
The tornado also disrupted roads, piling them high with debris and complicating both travel and communication. "People are trapped. You are going to see the devastation for days to come," said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Highway Patrol. She did not say how many people were stuck. More than 38,000 electricity customers in Oklahoma are without power, according to local power providers. The city of Moore had no running water overnight, the mayor said. While the threat of killer tornadoes is subsiding, severe weather threatened to strike states farther east. 'We're also concerned that there may be an enhanced and widespread damaging wind threat with storms as they merge together," Bunting said. "This is not over yet."