(Photo: Reuters / Eric Thayer)
The Missouri Department of Public Safety announced Wednesday that all persons previously reported as unaccounted for following the May 22 Joplin tornado had either been located or confirmed deceased.
Of the 268 people reported missing as at 1 p.m. Wednesday, 144 had been reported located and 124 confirmed dead, according to the Public Safety Department’s website, which says, “This list is final.”
“That brings the number of unaccounted-for individuals to zero.”
Gov. Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon said in a statement, “In the wake of this devastating tornado, Missouri State Highway Patrol Troopers have demonstrated outstanding professionalism and dedication in carrying out the vital mission of locating every individual who was unaccounted for after the storm.”
The total death toll is now 134, including 10 others who were not on the missing persons list.
However, speaking to The Associated Press, Seth Bundy, a spokesman for the state, cautioned there could be more deaths from the roughly 900 people who were injured as the United States’ deadliest tornado since 1947 hit the southwest Missouri city last month.
Nixon visited Joplin Wednesday to announce an initial $5.8 million investment to create temporary jobs for workers who lost employment following the tornado that damaged or destroyed over 8,000 homes and apartments, and at least 500 commercial properties.
The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce estimates that the tornado destroyed or severely damaged more than 400 Joplin businesses and affected up to 4,500 workers, The Joplin Globe reported. Chamber’s president Rob O’Brian told the daily that his group contacted more than 300 businesses and found that almost all operators were optimistic regarding their future in Joplin. “Only two were pessimistic.”
Dominating the coverage in local press are stories of Joplinites’ resilience and help from the others.
“It’s important to stress the message that Joplin’s not gone. Its essence, its spirit, its mining-town grit and gumption are very much intact. In fact, it’s more apparent than ever before that Joplin will not fade,” The Joplin Globe said in an editorial Wednesday.
According to the local daily, church volunteers from the Spirit of Christ Metropolitan Community Churches have joined others to serve the greater Joplin area.
“This may be a small church but has proved over the years that size doesn’t matter; putting your faith into action does,” the Rev. Steve Urie stated, as reported by The Joplin Globe.
President Barack Obama visited Joplin on Sunday, providing words of encouragement, hugs and assurance to the community that “we'll be with you every step of the way.” Evangelist Franklin Graham also stepped foot into the devastated city on Monday, praying with survivors who have been left with rubble. His relief organization Samaritan's Purse has been on the ground since the day after the tornado struck.