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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“After devastating tornado, Joplin, Mo., officials search for victims, brace for new storm”

JOPLIN, Mo., and LOS ANGELES — Search-and-rescue teams on Monday pored through rubble and wreckage, all that was left in many areas of Joplin, where at least 89 people have died, more than 2,000 structures have been ripped apart and whole neighborhoods have been obliterated after a tornado carved a six-mile path through southwestern Missouri.

Would-be rescuers conducted door-to-door searches, avoiding downed power lines that had ignited fires fueled by leaking gas. Debris was a constant danger and a barrier to search teams.

“”We still believe there are people to be saved in the rubble,”” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told reporters, describing the carnage in what is the state’s worst tornado disaster. He warned that another storm was on the way, complicating rescue efforts.

PresidentBarack Obama expressed his condolences in a telephone call to Nixon from Ireland, where Obama is visiting, the White House said. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate will head to Joplin to coordinate federal disaster relief, said White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro.

Speaking on television, Nixon said it was good to speak directly with the president and that Missouri would welcome all of the help available.

More than 40 agencies were involved in the search-and-rescue effort, which was racing against the arrival of the next storm. Nixon said communications equipment was crucial in coordinating the rescue and relief efforts, which are being complicated by transportation difficulties. Interstate 44 was shut down, and streets were clogged with emergency vehicles and the wreckage of buildings.

“”This is a developing situation,”” the governor said, “”but we believe that there is a significant potential for saving lives.””

The number of deaths stood at 89, but Mayor Pro Tem Melanie Colbert-Kean told reporters that the toll was likely to rise.

“”While we haven’t heard, it is expected to rise drastically,”” she said. “”We don’t know how high it can go. We’re praying it wouldn’t climb too high.””

The weather was worsening with severe thunderstorms expected, she said. “”We’re waiting to see if the siren goes off again.””

It was the piercing keen of sirens that shook the city of 50,000 at about 6 p.m. Sunday. Most agreed that the weather warning system worked, going off about half an hour before the brunt of the storm hit.

But the tornado was traveling so fast, Colbert-Kean said, that the danger was on the city before most had a chance to deal with the threat.

More than 2,000 structures were damaged, including a major hospital, St. John’s Regional Medical Center. Perhaps 30 percent of the city, about 160 miles from Kansas City, was damaged. An unknown number of people were injured, and many were treated in makeshift shelters in churches, Colbert-Kean said.

The roof was blown off of the hospital, and most patients were evacuated. A local nursing home also took a direct hit, city officials said.

The tornado that hit Joplin was one of 68 reported across seven Midwest states, from Oklahoma to Wisconsin, over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. At least one person was killed in Minneapolis.

But Missouri was by far the hardest hit in a season that has seen more than 300 people killed by tornadoes in the South last month. The South has also been dealing with massive flooding that killed one person and has caused billions of dollars in damage to property and crops.

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