Joplin tornado: death and destruction is 'breathtaking'
Mon, 23 May 2011 18:01:17 GMT — Update: May 24 at 1:45 p.m.: A nursing home owner in Joplin tells The Associated Press that 11 people were killed in Sunday's tornado at his facility alone.Bill Mitchell operates the Greenbriar nursing home. He said Tuesday that 10 patients and a staff member were killed when the facility was demolished by the twister.The survivors were sent to other facilities Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Mitchell say one person remains unaccounted for. The Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross is asking those wanting to help Joplin residents to send money, rather than other donations.The organization says it is currently not accepting food, clothing, water or other basic supplies at Missouri Southern State University.Also, service organizations are working to coordinate the efforts of the many people arriving in Joplin wanting to help as the city recovers from Sunday's devastating tornado.Those wanting to volunteer, including those with medical training, are asked to call the United Way 211 at 1-800-427-4626. Others should go to Beimdiek Recreation Center on the Missouri Southern campus.Officials say volunteers should NOT come to the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center/Young Gymnasium areas.People can donate to the KRCG/Red Cross telethon until 10:30 p.m. Tuesday by calling 573-644-6440. Update: May 23 at 3:15 p.m.:Officials in Joplin said the death toll rose to 116 on Monday.
Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr said seven people have been rescued in the rubble. Governor Jay Nixon said authorities are optimistic that there are more lives to be saved.Preliminary storm surveys show the tornado that hit the southwest Missouri community may have been an EF-4 tornado, but said they would not be surprised if the storm reached EF-5 levels. Original Story: Officials say at least 89 people have been confirmed dead in Joplin, and they fear the death toll will continue to rise.The twister hit around 6 p.m. Local time and tore through the some of the city's most populated sections. The half- a-mile wide twister was on the ground for nearly 6 miles. Governor Jay Nixon told The Associated Press on Monday that people had about 17 minutes of warning before the tornado hit, but he says the wind and rain were so loud that some may not have heard the warning sirens.Searching for survivors is the top priority Monday.I don't think you can single out any one area, Joplin Emergency Management Director Keith Stammer said about the damage. The entire path the tornado took through town has just basically devastated the central portion of Joplin.The governor says about 400 people have been treated at another hospital in Joplin and more than 100 spent the night at a shelter.R esidents say the damage left behind by the tornado that roared through Joplin is breathtaking. Some 2,000 buildings suffered significant damage.St. John's Regional Medical Center took a direct hit. The tornado blew out hundreds of windows and ripped apart the roof. The medical helicopter was crushed.Every window looks to be blown out, there's debris hanging out the windows, said Bethany Scutti, who witnessed the storm. There's just cars stacked all over the parking lot.Workers says they only had a few minutes warning to get patients into hallways before the storm struck.A physician at St. John's confirmed at least four people were killed at the hospital during the tornado.Dr. Jim Roscoe says he doesn't know if the victims were patients or staff members. He compared the carnage to what he saw when he responded to the Hyatt Regency disaster in 1981 and last year in Haiti after a devastating earthquake.Roscoe says some staff members who responded to the hospital after the storm already were injured, but worked all night long anyway. The medical center is no longer useable and hospital staff has moved the 180 patients to other facilities. Everybody worked together to make sure the critical patients got out and then everybody else got moved to where they needed to be, said Miranda Lewis, Hospital Spokeswoman.An executive at the hospital says he was briefly sucked outside as the tornado hit the building.Rod Pace, Med Flight manager, says he was on the hospital's second floor Sunday evening when he saw swirling rain start to form.Suddenly, the glass doors he was holding onto, the ones with the 100-pound magnet to keep them locked, were pulled open. Pace was sucked outside briefly and then pushed back in like a rag doll. He managed to keep holding on to the handles.He ran to the hospital's interior for cover. Then he heard the roar. Pace says it was as if the building was breathing.The principal of the flattened Joplin High School says the destruction reminds him of pictures from World War II. Kerry Sachetta says he barely recognizes the school building.And Red Cross spokesman Michael Spencer says he's been to dozens of disasters but is stunned to see metal structures ripped apart.A chaplain says the football field at Missouri Southern State University temporarily acted as a makeshift morgue for victims of the deadly Joplin tornado.Kevin Smith, one of two chaplains working with families, didn't count how many people he helped identify but said it was several dozen.Smith says the bodies later were transported from the field to another location, but he didn't know more. As of 11:30 a.m. Monday, the bodies were no longer on campus.The tornado is the deadliest to hit the state in more than 50 years but wasn't the worst in state history.The federal Storm Prediction Center says the worst tornado in Missouri's history hit in St. Louis in May 1896, when 255 people died.(The Associated Press, CNN and CBS contributed to this story)