The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 23, 2011

Search continues for tornado victims

JOPLIN, Mo. — More than 450 people are combing through the ruins of Joplin neighborhoods today, looking for victims of Sunday’s killer tornado that cut an almost one-mile-wide swath of destruction across the south side of the city.

“Rescue efforts are being effective,” Lynn Onstott, the city’s public information director, said shortly before noon. “We are finding people and helping them as we find them.”

The searchers, which included National Guardsmen, law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and volunteers, were working a grid pattern in the tornado-stricken zone, Onstott said.

“We’re trying to identify what homes we’ve already been into in an efficient manner and just go from there,” she said.

The city’s confirmed death count remained at 89, she said, although a higher number is expected to be announced at a 3 p.m. news conference.  

More than 1,000 people were injured by the tornado. Hundreds of injured continued to be taken to area hospitals. One of Joplin’s two hospitals, St. John’s Regional Medical Center, was knocked out of commission by the storm and its patients moved to Freeman Hospital West, to a makeshift medical center in Joplin’s Memorial Hall or to other area hospitals.

Onstott said she did not yet have a list of the other hospitals where St. John’s patients were being transferred but was able to confirm that the most critical had been moved to Freeman.

Significant portions of Joplin remained without power late in the morning and concerns have arisen about the city’s water supply, with Missouri American Water issuing a boil advisory overnight. Onstott acknowledged that both food and water shortages may become problems as the crisis continues.

“Anytime you have this kind of situation, those are going to be difficulties the city could face,” she said. “But at this time, our first priority remains search and rescue.”

Those wishing assistance or information from the American Red Cross should dial 417-659-5464.

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