A monster tornado killed at least 116 people in Joplin
Monster F5 Tornado Strikes Devastating Blow to Joplin Mo
|By Kevin Murphy
JOPLIN, Missouri | Mon May 23, 2011 6:39pm EDT
(Reuters) - A monster tornado killed at least 116 people in Joplin, Missouri when it tore through the heart of the small city, ripping the roof off a hospital and destroying thousands of homes and businesses.
Weather officials said the tornado that hit the city of 50,000 at dinner time on Sunday was the deadliest single tornado in the country since 1947 and the ninth-deadliest tornado of all time, they said.
Emergency officials said on Monday 116 people were killed and about 400 were injured. According to local officials many had massive internal injuries.
Seven people had been rescued, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon told reporters in Joplin. Emergency crews searched through the night and through a thunderstorm with driving rain on Monday for anyone left alive.
"We still believe there are folks alive under the rubble and we're trying hard to reach them," Nixon said.
Survivors told harrowing stories of riding out winds of 190-198 mph in walk-in coolers in restaurants and convenience stores, hiding in bathtubs and closets, and of running for their lives as the tornado bore down.
"We were getting hit by rocks and I don't even know what hit me," said Leslie Swatosh, 22, who huddled on the floor of a liquor store with several others, holding onto each other and praying.
When the tornado passed, the store was destroyed but those inside were all alive. "Everyone in that store was blessed. There was nothing of that store left," she said.
More severe storms were predicted for the region, in a year that has brought tornadoes of record intensity across several states. Further complicating the rescue effort, power lines were downed, broken gas lines ignited fires, and cell phone communications were spotty due to 17 toppled phone towers.
Verizon Wireless, a unit of Verizon Communications Inc, said it was delivering three temporary cell towers for emergency service.