U.S. deadliest tornado kills 118 people in Joplin

08:38, May 25, 2011      

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The authorities said on Tuesday that the tornado that battered Joplin, Missouri, killed 118 people on Sunday, making it the deadliest single U.S. tornado since the National Weather Service began modern record-keeping more than 60 years ago.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that the toll is expected to climb as searching and rescuing continues.

By Monday night, officials found 17 people alive. Joplin Emergency Management Director Keith Stammer said several hundred people were injured in the tornado, and about 1,500 people are still unaccounted for

U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he plans to visit the region on Sunday.

Obama said he will let people know "the whole country is going to be behind them."

The tornado touched down into the heart of the city near 6 p.m. on Sunday, destroying thousands of buildings.

Local fire departments estimated that 25 percent to 30 percent of the city was damaged by the winds of up to 200 miles per hour, but the number of people injured in the storm was still unknown.

Jasper County emergency management director estimated that 2,000 buildings were damaged.

The tornado even cut a path nearly six miles long and more than a half-mile wide in the downtown area. Besides, a series of gas leaks caused fires around the city overnight.

Among the worst-hit locations in Joplin was patients-packed St. John's Regional Medical Center, which suffered a "direct hit" from the tornado.

The storm battered this nine-story building, blew out hundreds of windows and left the facility useless, with medical records, X-rays, insulation and other items found 60 miles away.

Missouri Governor Nixon has declared a state of emergency and called out the Missouri National Guard to help.

The authorities began a door-to-door search on Monday morning. But the task was made more difficult as a new thunderstorm with strong winds, heavy rain and "baseball"-sized hail continued to torment part of the city.

An official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Obama has issued a disaster declaration to expedite the dispersal of federal resources to the area.

More than 1,000 law enforcement officers from four states descended on Joplin to help with disaster response. Meanwhile, up to 217 National Guard troops were on duty and about 30 military police are helping with security and checkpoints as people try to return to their home in areas that may not be safe. Besides, the flood of aid from strangers and volunteers has helped ease the misery in Joplin.

The Joplin twister was one of 68 reported tornadoes across seven Midwest states over the weekend, spreading from Oklahoma to Wisconsin, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. The damage in Missouri was the worst of the day.

At least one person was killed in Minneapolis and a strong storm also caused significant damage in La Crosse, a city on the west of Wisconsin. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

A small town in Kansas was stricken by a tornado on Saturday, which killed one person and destroyed at least 20 homes.

Over the last month, tornadoes killed more than 300 people and caused more than 2 billion U.S. dollars in damage to the U.S. South.

Source: Xinhua
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