Oklahoma tornado: Pope, queen, other world leaders express their condolences

People walk through a damaged area near the Moore Warren Theater after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.

World leaders were joined by the Pope, the queen of England and a host of celebrities in expressing their condolences to the victims of Monday’s powerful tornado which ripped through Oklahoma City, claiming at least 24 lives according to the official death toll as of Tuesday morning.

"I am close to the families of all who died in the Oklahoma tornado, especially those who lost young children," Pope Francis said on his Twitter account.

"Join me in praying for them," he said.

In a message of condolence to President Barack Obama, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II expressed her “deepest sympathies” to those affected by the half-mile wide tornado that tore through the town of Moore on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, destroying homes, a primary school and even a hospital.

"I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of life and devastation caused by yesterday's tornado in Oklahoma,” the queen wrote.

"Prince Philip joins me in offering our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families at this difficult time.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to all those whose lives have been affected, as well as the American people."

It was feared that many of the dead could be children, though the official estimate did not indicate how many were adults.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also sent his “heartfelt condolences” to the victims, according to a copy of a letter to Obama posted on Netanyahu’s Twitter account.

The tornado left a trail of destruction after it hit the city, flattening houses, flinging cars into the air and leveling a hospital and a primary school. The BBC posted this map showing the twister's devastating path through Moore. 

As emergency workers continued to search through the rubble for survivors, CNN reported French President Francois Hollande saluted the "mobilization" of citizens who tackled "this exceptional situation with courage and determination.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, told Obama that the "pictures of this catastrophe render us speechless." 

Celebrities also sent messages of support to the victims of the tornado, which was packing winds of up to 200 miles per hour when it slammed into the community of 41,000, about 10 miles south of Oklahoma. 

This from singer-songwriter Alicia Keys:

And Olivia Munn, who grew up in the state of Oklahoma, left this message:

A school in Brisbane, Australia, posted this message of support overnight, a photograph of which was posted online by a local television journalist. 

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