A massive tornado that tore through the southwest Missouri city of Joplin killed at least 89 people, but authorities warned that the death toll could climb Monday as search and rescuers continued their work at sunrise. City manager Mark Rohr announced the number of known dead at a pre-dawn news conference outside the wreckage of a hospital that took a direct hit from Sunday’s storm. Rohr said the twister cut a path nearly six miles long and more than a half-mile wide through the center of town. Much of the city’s south side was leveled, with churches, schools, businesses and homes reduced to ruins.
Fire chief Mitch Randles estimated that 25 to 30 percent of the city was damaged, and said his own home was among the buildings destroyed as the twister swept through this city of about 50,000 people some 160 miles south of Kansas City. “It cut the city in half,” Randles said. “People are just scrambling. Multiple homes and businesses destroyed, mangled vehicles and debris everywhere you look,” Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Bettes reported. “The damage is absolutely immense here in Joplin.” Severe weather was expected to continue throughout Monday, according to The Weather Channel.
An unknown number of people were injured in the storm, and officials said patients were scattered to any nearby hospitals that could take them. The same storm system that produced the Joplin tornado spawned twisters across a broad swath of the Midwest, from Oklahoma to Wisconsin. At least one person was killed in Minneapolis. But the devastation in Missouri appeared to be the worst of the day, eerily reminiscent the tornadoes that killed more than 300 people across the South last month.