Sense of hopelessness in battered Oklahoma overwhelming

The death toll is climbing remorselessly. The sense of helplessness in Oklahoma is overwhelming.

This was a storm system of such force - with winds in the heart of the tornado recorded at 200mph - that nature could not be contested.

If you were in the path of this tornado you stood little chance. Storm shelters, reinforced rooms, basements - all provided minimal protection.

At least 91 people, including 20 children, are thought to have been killed after a tornado hit Oklahoma. Credit: Reuters

The debris field was two miles wide. It happened at extraordinary speed. Hardened and experienced storm chasers who were monitoring and filming it said they were shocked that the tornado grew into a monster in front of their eyes.

When it touched down at 2.56pm it then travelled 20 miles in 40 minutes. The result has to be seen to be believed.

The tornado ripped the through Oklahoma flattening entire neighbourhoods. Credit: Reuters

In large swathes of this rural state the storm would have been dramatic but not so deadly. But this tornado hit a city suburb not farmland.

The result is simply devastating.

President Obama declared a major disaster in Oklahoma after the deadly tornado struck. Credit: Reuters

Homes have been levelled. Cars were thrown and crushed like toys. Two schools were flattened.

Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department put it this way: "Numerous neighbourhoods were completely levelled. Neighbourhoods just wiped clean."

Cars were thrown and crushed like toys as the tornado tore through the state. Credit: Reuters

The Mayor's Office, struggling to assess the damage, issued a statement that said simply: "Please send us your prayers."

Americans are shocked by the images being broadcast from the scene. The President has declared a major emergency and promised massive federal aid for the recovery effort.

President Obama speaks to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. Credit: White House

Horrifying in its power, it was actually a replay of a similar tornado that struck the same area in May 1999, which according to reports had the strongest wind speeds ever recorded on earth, 302mph.

The tornado travelled 20 miles in 40 minutes hitting two schools and a medical centre. Credit: Reuters

When dawn breaks here, the people of this battered state will still be bewildered and lost, unable to comprehend the force of what hit them.