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Over 100 die as tornado hits US mid-west

May 24, 2011

Firefighters dig through rubble as they look for survivors after a devastating tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, May 23, 2011. – Photo by Reuters

NEW YORK: More than 100 people were reported killed when a devastating tornado hit the town of Joplin in the state of Missouri on Sunday. Coroners of Newton and Jasper counties in the state were setting up a temporary morgue in Joplin.

Teams with bodybags were being dispatched to Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Sonic and other businesses in the hardest hit areas in the town.

The tornado was a half-mile wide when it hit Joplin. It grew to a width of three-quarters of a mile before dissipating to a width of half a mile.

Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges told a local TV channel that bodies were being recovered from places where people attempted to seek shelter from the storm but were crushed by falling roofs.

He said family members were calling to find out whether their loved ones were among the dead. In one instance, a man was identified by a cross that had been tattooed on his arm.

Keith Stammer, emergency management director for Joplin and Jasper County, said whole apartment complexes were blown away. Also hit were nursing homes.

St. John’s hospital took a direct hit from the tornado. Several patients in the hospital were transferred to Freeman Hospital West, which was overwhelmed by injured people. People were being delivered in pick-up trucks, lying on doors and pieces of plywood that served as makeshift stretchers. Also overwhelmed was an emergency medical centre that was set up at Memorial Hall.

Reuters adds: “It is a significant tragedy,” said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. “We’re working on all cylinders. We’ve got to get an active and complete search ... to make sure if there is anyone still alive in the rubble that we get them out.”

The city’s residents were given about 20 minutes notice when 25 warning sirens sounded throughout the southwest Missouri town around 6pm CDT, said Jasper County Emergency Management Director Keith Stammers.