Rain In Joplin, Mo., Hinders Rescue Efforts

Rescue workers and survivors are sifting through the rubble in the aftermath of a tornado that pummeled Joplin, Mo., Sunday evening. The twister left as many as 116 people dead. Heavy rain is hindering search-and-rescue efforts Monday. The weather is also making it difficult for survivors to salvage personal belongings.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Heavy rain and hail fell on Joplin, Missouri, today. It hindered search-and-rescue efforts one day after a tornado killed at least 116 people. Crews are still searching for others.

Missy Shelton of member station KSMU was in Joplin today.

MISSY SHELTON: Downed power lines and natural gas leaks made the area struck by the tornado even more treacherous as people began to pack up what they could. Some walked the streets seemingly numb as they carried garbage bags and pulled wagons filled with their belongings.

Ryan Royster(ph) and his wife were lugging a laundry basket overflowing with clothes. Their apartment complex was destroyed.

Mr. RYAN ROYSTER: I mean, it just hurts. Everything you've just worked, you know, so hard to have is just gone in a second. One minute you wake up, everything is fine. You come home. It's gone.

SHELTON: Ryan was out of town visiting family when the twister struck.

Eddie Chin(ph), on the other hand, was in the thick of it. He crouched in his bathroom and covered his head, listening as the tornado tore at his apartment building. He's been looking for his sister and brother-in-law who live in the same building.

Mr. EDDIE CHIN: I spend like four hours last night, until dark. I'm still looking for them. Definitely, they were in the apartment because she called me like two minutes before the tornado hit over us.

SHELTON: Officials estimate that as much as one-third of the city is destroyed. Dark skies off to the west threatened rain this morning as Tamara Willock(ph) hurriedly loaded a few belongings into her car parked near where her house once stood.

Ms. TAMARA WILLOCK: There's nothing left. It's all gone. Basically, all we have left is a frame. We're just going to dig it out as we can. And pray for no more rain.

(Soundbite of rain)

SHELTON: As the rain falls and the thunder crashes overhead, I'm standing here looking down the street at what used to be a neighborhood but is now a sight of total devastation. Instead of homes, you have piles of debris, splintered wood. It's difficult to even discern any furniture as you look into these piles of what used to be homes.

Residents say they're in shock. They don't even know exactly where they are at times and are having trouble finding places that once were very familiar to them.

Mr. NATHAN ARTENGER(ph): It don't look the same. It's pretty bad when I didn't know what street I was on last night when I was trying to get home, you know, because all the signs were gone. It just looks so chaotic.

SHELTON: Nathan Artenger is one of the many Joplin residents helping neighbors clean up.

A few miles away at Missouri Southern State University, Chris McGinn is helping register volunteers who've come from all over the region.

Mr. CHRIS McGINN: There's this form right here, and this one is just a liability waiver, and if you can date there and sign it.

SHELTON: As the volunteers get their assignments, it's medical personnel who are in high demand. Joplin's primary hospital, St. John's Regional Medical Center, was directly in the path of the tornado and sustained heavy damage. Patients were transferred to other facilities, but medical records, including X-rays, caught up in the twister reportedly turned up more than 70 miles away.

For NPR News, I'm Missy Shelton.

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