A massive tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri last night, causing at least 89 confirmed deaths and devastating the city of 50,500 people. Storms continue to hit the area today, making it difficult for search and rescue workers to help the city’s residents.
The tornado struck at about 6pm on Sunday, traveling four miles with an estimated width of three-quarters of a mile.
More than 1,000 law enforcement officers from 40 different agencies spread across four states in the US are aiding the local emergency response crews in Joplin. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has sent in 140 National Guard troops and a search-and-rescue team to search for any survivors trapped in the debris caused by the tornado.
Joplin city officials fear that the death toll may be even larger once they are able to get an accurate assessment of the devastation. This is already the deadliest single tornado to hit the US since 1953.
"The particular area that the tornado went through is just like the central portion of the city, and it's very dense in terms of population," said Joplin Emergency Management Director Keith Stammer on CNN this morning.
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President Obama dispatched Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate to Missouri to coordinate the US government’s relief efforts with Governor Nixon and Joplin city officials.
The town in southwest Missouri has also suffered massive property damages. It is estimated that at least a quarter of all the buildings in Joplin were significantly damaged by the tornado, including a local High School and hospital.
"It just looks like it's been bombed from the outside in," said Principal Kerry Sachetta. "It's just terrible.”