x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Riding out US tornado in a walk-in freezer: a survivor's tale

Siblings escape one of the most powerful and destructive twisters to hit the United States in recent years by hiding in restaurant freezer.

MOORE, Oklahoma // For years Anita Zhang's neighbours joked that if a tornado ever bore down on her Chinese restaurant, folks could take refuge in its roomy walk-in freezer.

On Monday, Ms Zhang got the chance to test their idea, and to lived to tell the tale, when one of the most powerful and destructive twisters to hit the United States in recent years ripped through this Oklahoma City suburb.

"I'm so lucky," she said, over and over through an interpreter.

A native of Guangdong, the Chinese province that's no stranger to merciless typhoons, Ms Zhang, 57, emigrated to the United States 10 years ago.

She was watching live storm coverage on local TV in the restaurant with her brother Michael Zhang, 50, when suddenly the power went off, the neighbourhood disaster sirens wailed and the dark funnel of fury drew near.

Into the freezer the siblings went, with a blanket, thoughtfully, to sit out the twister as it passed literally on top of them, pulverising everything in its path.

"I felt the building was shaking and moving. There were loud noises and banging and wind blowing ... I thought only the glass door of the restaurant would be broken, but when we crawled out, everything was gone."