Monday, May 23, 2011

Dozens Killed By Latest Tornado

Updated 5 p.m. EDT

The death toll from a rain-wrapped high-end EF4-rated tornado in Joplin, Mo., climbed from 89 at midday to at least 116 by the late afternoon,  Gov. Jay Nixon confirmed a short time ago.

"It looks like a war zone -- something out of a horror movie," Joplin resident Zack Tusinger said, describing the scene a short while ago in his hometown, where he lost his aunt and uncle to the twister.

As the grim count rose there were reports of at least seven people being found alive, but as the time passes the death toll is likely to increase.

"I don't think we're done counting," Nixon told The Associated Press. "I still believe that because of the size of the debris and the number of people involved that there are lives to be saved."
The tornado's estimated winds of 190-198 mph cut a six-mile path around the small city of 50,000 residents in rural Southwest Missouri.  

end update
President Obama dispatched FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to Joplin, Mo., today to oversee federal efforts to respond to the killer tornado that uprooted much of the town last night.

Obama, who is on the first day of a diplomatic trek through Europe, called Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to pledge federal help in the aftermath of the deadly storm. The President offered condolences to the victims and families of the dozens killed by the monster tornado.

Videos posted on the Internet show first responders searching frantically for survivors in a town that has been leveled by the twister.

Obama is being kept abreast of the tragedy in Joplin while traveling, aides said. He is is expected to quickly designate the town a federal disaster area, which will make federal funds available to the storm-ravaged community.

"The President called Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to personally extend his condolences and to express that all of the families of Joplin affected by the severe tornadoes are in his thoughts and prayers. The President assured the governor that FEMA will remain in close contact and coordination with state and local officials," said White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro.

"The President has directed FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to travel to Missouri to ensure the state has all the support it needs. In addition, in anticipation of requests for assistance, a FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team is en route to Joplin. This self-sustaining team will work with FEMA officials already in Missouri to coordinate with state and local officials to identify needs and any shortfalls impacting disaster response and recovery," Shapiro said in a statement.

"The Federal government will continue to support our fellow Americans during this difficult time," Shapiro added.

This latest killer tornado comes amid the worst flooding along the Mississippi in generations, as well as a string of deadly twisters several weeks ago that killed more than 300 people in Alabama and other states across the South.

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