Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Nation / World News

May 24, 2011

17 rescued from tornado rubble; 116 found dead

Washington, D.C. — The death toll from Sunday's tornado has risen to 116 as rescue crews pulled bodies from a debris field three-quarters of a mile wide and six miles long.

Seventeen people were found buried alive, many in the rubble of destroyed homes and businesses, providing joy to an otherwise grim recovery process hampered by heavy rain and lightning.

Many of the dead were pulled from Home Depot, Wal-Mart and other businesses devastated along the city's main business roadway leading to downtown Joplin.

Other bodies were recovered from homes and apartment buildings ravaged by one of the deadliest tornados in U.S. history.

Authorities said it is likely more bodies will be found and that the death toll will climb even higher. They said the tornado recorded winds at nearly 200 miles per hour.

More than 1,150 people with injuries or a medical condition connected to the tornado were treated at local and nearby hospitals.

The tornado significantly damaged the town's high school and a hospital, where four patients died in the storm.

Mayor Mike Woolston urged sightseers to stay away from Joplin, and let the search and rescue workers do their job.

"I fear someone will die because gawkers are getting in the way of our first responders," he said. "If you don¹t live here, stay away."

City Manager Mark Rohr confirmed at a press conference that police were investigating incidents of looting.

Standing by his side, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said every effort would be made "to make sure every piece of property is protected."

Nixon declared a state of emergency on Sunday, dispatching 110 state troopers and 250 National Guardsmen to Joplin to help in the recovery.

Emergency personnel made three sweeps of the tornado's aftermath Monday in search of survivors.

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