Julie Denesha/Getty Images
Jason Martin of the Carthage Fire Department made his way through debris during a search and rescue mission Tuesday (May 24, 2011) in Joplin.
Jason Martin of the Carthage Fire Department made his way through debris during a search and rescue mission Tuesday (May 24, 2011) in Joplin. Julie Denesha/Getty Images
Officials in Joplin, Mo., have had to respond to news media and Internet reports that as many as 1,500 people are still unaccounted for after the powerful tornado that roared through the city Sunday evening. They're trying to caution against reading too much into that shocking number:
"Some reports stated 1500 people are missing," officials write on the city's official Facebook page. "This does NOT mean they are injured or deceased, just that that loved ones are not aware of their whereabouts. Some people may have been out of area when storm hit or have since left. If someone has been out of area, or staying w/ family, friends, etc., please call: 417-659-5464. This is important to help us locate our citizens."
The statement follows sobering headlines such as this:
— "In Wake of Tornado, Official Says 1,500 Are Unaccounted For." (The New York Times)
Reuters is also using the 1,500 figure, and Catholic Online says it's been told the same thing by Keith Stammer of Jasper County (Mo.) Emergency Management.
But those news outlets also note that many people in Joplin, a city of about 50,000, may have left the area and haven't been able to notify authorities, friends or families that they're OK because of downed phone lines and cellphone towers.
Still, as Time magazine writes, the 1,500 figure has "spread quickly — online and in Joplin."
Along with the phone number that city officials posted, another way to get in touch with relatives or report that you're OK (provided you can get to an Internet connection) is to go to the American Red Cross' SafeAndWell website.