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Deadly tornado rips through Joplin, Missouri

By Ruth Hendry - 24 May 2011 21:11:0 GMT
Deadly tornado rips through Joplin, Missouri

At least 118 people are dead and hundreds injured after a tornado hit the small city of Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday. With around 1,500 people still unaccounted for, the death toll is expected to rise as rescuers battle severe weather conditions to search through the wreckage.

Downed power lines and gas leaks, causing fires, have also hampered the rescue operation. Homes and workplaces have been flattened and power lines are down. A state of emergency has been declared, with more storms expected over the next few weeks and a 45% chance of another tornado.  Last month, tornadoes struck Alabama, causing at least two casualties.

A damaged city

Officials told the BBC that the storm cut a path 10 kilometres long through the city. Wind speed reached over 190 miles per hour, forcing the evacuation of a hospital and causing millions of dollars worth of damage.  Churches, schools and businesses have been destroyed. It is estimated that around 30% of the city has been damaged. Military police and the National Guard have arrived to help with the disaster response. Cities across the Midwest have also been badly affected by the storms

Storm season

The Joplin tornado adds further weather woe to the U.S., a country already battling with severe floods. Communities along the Mississippi river are facing up to $2.2 billion worth of damage as spillways are opened to cause deliberate flooding. Whilst this will protect cities further down the river, including New Orleans, it is devastating for communities forced to leave their homes.

Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, warned residents to remain vigilant as the storm season continues: ''They continue to pose significant risk to lives and property. I urge Missourians to keep a close eye on the latest weather information and to follow the instructions and warnings of emergency personnel as these deadly storms continue to move through our state.''

National Weather Center - Storm Prediction Advisory and Warnings.

Image: Stock tornado damage. Credit © Ernest Prim.