At Least 89 Dead in Joplin as Tornado Shreds Town

'75% of Joplin is gone', says Red Cross rep of Missouri town
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2011 1:19 AM CDT
Updated May 23, 2011 7:49 AM CDT
Man Dead, Joplin Crushed as Tornadoes Shred Midwest
Residents begin digging through the rubble of their home after it was destroyed by a tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., last night.   (AP Photo/Mike Gullett)

(Newser) – The latest savage slash of US tornadoes ripped up the Midwest last night, flattening the town of Joplin, Missouri. At least 89 are dead, and that number is expected to rise. "I would say 75% of Joplin is virtually gone," said a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross after a tornado tore a 4-mile swath through the heart of town. Homes and other buildings were crushed, and power lines and trees toppled. "Vehicles were picked up and thrown into houses," said one witness. Medical records and X-rays from the hard-hit Joplin Regional Medical Center were discovered nearly 70 miles away, littering people's driveways, reports CNN.

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Missouri's governor has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, according to ABC News, and there is fear that broken gas lines could lead to explosions. The tornado was part of a string that descended from a severe weather front extending from Texas close to the Canadian border that also blew off roofs and snapped trees in Minnesota's twin cities and the Wisconsin town of LaCrosse. A Minneapolis man was killed when a tree fell on his minivan, reports Reuters. "We could hear doors busting open through the house," said one homeowner. "There was a lot of commotion, and then it was silent." Last month's death toll from a series of tornadoes in the South stands at 339, the second worst in US history. (Read more Midwest tornadoes stories.)

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