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Death Toll In Joplin Tornado Hits 116

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May 23 2011, Published 9:25 a.m. ET

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Authorities have reported that the death toll that struck Joplin has now risen to 116 making it one of the deadliest tornadoes in US history.

The huge 165 mph tornado tore a six mile long, half mile path through the Missouri city on Sunday destroying churches, schools, businesses and homes to fall in its path.

The devastation was reminiscent of the tornadoes that killed more than 300 people in the mid-west last month.

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Search and rescue crews are continuing to search for survivors in the area with a population of around 50,000 people which sits about 160 miles south of Kansas City.

The force of the storm that hit Joplin spread debris about 60 miles away, with medical records, X-rays, insulation and other items falling to the ground in neighboring Greene County.

Emergency management officials rushed heavy equipment to the area to help lift debris and clear the way for search and recovery operations - most of the dead were killed when their homes collapsed on top of them.

Governor Jay Nixon activated the National Guard and declared a state of emergency while President Barack Obama said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was working with state and local agencies.

The President also issued a statement sending condolences to families of those who died in storms in the devastated areas..

Jeff Lehr, a reporter for The Joplin Globe newspaper, said he was upstairs in his home when the storm hit but was able to make his way to a basement closet.

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He revealed: "There was a loud huffing noise, my windows started popping. I had to get downstairs, glass was flying. I opened a closet and pulled myself into it,"

"Then you could hear everything go. It tore the roof off my house, everybody's house. I came outside and there was nothing left."

Lehr reported that people were walking around the streets outside trying to check on neighbors, but in many cases there were no homes to inspect.

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He added:  "There were people wandering the streets, all mud covered.

"I'm talking to them, asking if they knew where their family is. Some of them didn't know, and weren't sure where they were. All the street markers were gone."

Tornado warnings were posted throughout the evening for other southwestern Missouri counties as the system powered its way east.


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