The gigantic tornado which tore a 6-mile path through southwestern Missouri killed at least 89 people as it slammed into a hospital in the city of Joplin, crushing cars and leaving a forest of split tree trunks behind where once whole neighborhoods stood.
Authorities cautioned that the death toll could climb as search and rescue teams continue their efforts. Their task was made worse as a new thunderstorm with strong winds and rain pelted part the city with hail.
Mark Rohr, the Joplin City manager announced the number of known dead at a pre-dawn news conference outside the rubble where a hospital once stood. Rohr said the twister cut a path almost 6 miles long and more than a half-mile wide through the center of town. Much of the city’s south side was leveled, with schools, churches, businesses and homes reduced to ruins.
Keith Stammer, the Jasper County emergency management director said about 2,000 buildings were damaged, while Mitch Randles, the Joplin fire chief estimated the damage covered more than a quarter of the city of about 50,000 people some 160 miles south of Kansas City.