Crews canvass Joplin, searching for survivors

By Nomaan Merchant
Associated Press / May 27, 2011

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JOPLIN, Mo. — The death toll from the massive tornado that devastated the southwest Missouri city of Joplin now stands at 126, officials said yesterday.

City Manager Mark Rohr announced the updated figure after meeting with residents and government officials about plans to offer assistance to residents.

More than 900 people were injured in Sunday’s tornado, which is now considered the nation’s single-deadliest in six decades.

As emergency workers in Joplin searched yesterday for more than 230 people listed as missing after the tornado, one was sitting on a wooden chair outside the wreckage of her home, cuddling her cat.

Sally Adams, 75, said neighbors rescued her Sunday after the storm destroyed her house and took her to a friend’s home. Missouri officials had said they believed many of the missing were alive and safe but simply hadn’t been in touch with friends and family, in part because cellphone service has been spotty.

Adams said she lost her cellphone in the storm and had not contacted her family to let them know she was OK. She was placed on the missing list after relatives called a hot line and posted Facebook messages saying she was missing.

Her son, Bill, said he told authorities his mother was alive after he learned she was safe, yet she remained on their unaccounted-for list yesterday afternoon.

Mike O’Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said he wouldn’t call Adams’s listing a mistake and finding her is “a good thing.’’ He urged other survivors to check the list and call if they see their names.

Not all of the stories of the missing will end so well. Some families of the 126 known fatalities waited yesterday for their remains to be released. One victim’s funeral was scheduled for today in Galena, Kan., and other services were scheduled for the weekend.

But some of the bodies have yet to be identified. Andrea Spillars, deputy director and general counsel of the public safety department, said officials know that some of the people unaccounted for are dead, but she wouldn’t say how many or when the names of the deceased would be released.

Also yesterday, forecasters withdrew a slew of tornado watches in the South and said the heavy weather that pounded the Midwest in recent days had finally receded. Nevertheless, violent storms could not be ruled out elsewhere. Tornadoes and thunderstorms hit Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and other states Wednesday evening.

In Oklahoma, authorities found the body of a 3-year-old boy who disappeared when a tornado struck his home this week, the 10th storm-related fatality from the storm in that state.

The closest nuclear power plant to Joplin was singled out weeks before the storm for being vulnerable to twisters. Inspections triggered by Japan’s nuclear crisis found that some emergency equipment and storage sites at the Wolf Creek nuclear plant in southeastern Kansas might not survive a tornado.

Specifically, plant operators and federal inspectors said Wolf Creek did not secure equipment and vehicles needed to fight fires, retrieve fuel for emergency generators, and resupply water to keep nuclear fuel cool as it is being moved.

Despite these findings, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded that the plant met requirements put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that are designed to keep the nuclear fuel cool and containment structures intact during an emergency. top stories on Twitter

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