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Death toll rises in Joplin, tornado was highest-rated EF5

Tree limbs are piled up near Saint John's Hospital in Joplin, Mo. on May 22.
(UPI/Rick Meyer)
Tree limbs are piled up near Saint John's Hospital in Joplin, Mo. on May 22.

Updated at 5:36 p.m.:

The latest number of confirmed dead has risen to 125. (via the Associated Press)

Updated with latest information from SEMA:

  • 123 people are now confirmed dead. 503 are in shelters across the region.
  • Primary and secondary search and rescue mission have been completed. 18 cadaver dog teams are now searching the area.
  • Joplin law enforcement has requested additional assistance, and Jasper County 911 has indicated the need for more 911 operators.
  • All of the arterial and collector streets in Joplin have been cleared of debris.

The massive tornado that tore through Joplin, Mo. is now officially the deadliest single twister in the U.S. in nearly six decades with a death toll of at least 122. The National Weather Service says the tornado was a highest-rated EF5 storm, with winds greater than 200 mph.

City Manager Mark Rohr said Tuesday that more than 750 people were injured. Nine people also have been recovered from debris and authorities say the search and rescue is continuing.

The twister that hit Joplin on Sunday is the deadliest single tornado since the National Weather Service began keeping official records in 1950. It's the 8th-deadliest single twister in U.S. history.

Federal officials estimate about 8,000 structures were damaged.

More updates from the Tuesday evening press conference and into the evening of May 24:

  • A curfew will be put in place in Joplin, beginning tonight, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Permits will be issued to residents who reside within the tornado's footprint.
  • Search and rescue teams today (Tuesday) pulled two more people from the wreckage alive  - one from the basement of a house, another from a business.
  • Search and rescue teams have completed two complete sweeps of the area and were working on a third as of 5 p.m. today (Tuesday). They expect to do as many as five searches.
  • 1,500 people are listed as missing, but that number includes residents who may have traveled outside the area. The City Manager is asking Joplin residents who left the area  to call 417-659-5464 to check in, let people know where they are - they could currently be listed as missing.
  • City officials say 400 firefighters and other emergency personnel from across the state are assisting in the search and rescue operation, as well as 200 trained civilian volunteers.
  • Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has signed an executive order designed to allow physicians from outside Missouri to treat patients and to permit pharmacists to provide medication for people whose medical records are missing. Nixon says the order would allow people living in Joplin to continue receiving medical treatment.

Will be updated with more information.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.