89 Dead After Tornado In Joplin, Missouri; Number Expected To Rise

Joplin, Missouri -- A tornado that chewed through a densely populated area of Joplin, Missouri, killed at least 89 people as it tore apart homes and businesses, ripped into a high school and caused severe damage to one of the two hospitals in the city, officials said Monday.

"Everybody's going to know people who are dead," said CNN iReporter Zach Tusinger, who said his aunt and uncle died in the Sunday night tornado. "You could have probably dropped a nuclear bomb on the town and I don't think it would have done near as much damage as it did."

As many as a quarter of the buildings in the southwest Missouri city suffered major or significant damage, fire and emergency management officials said.

Parts of the city of 50,500 were unrecognizable, according to Steve Polley, a storm chaser from Kansas City, Missouri, who described the damage from the Sunday night tornado as "complete devastation."

Aerial footage from CNN affiliate KOTV showed houses reduced to lumber and smashed cars sitting atop heaps of wood.

"The particular area that the tornado went through is just like the central portion of the city, and it's very dense in terms of population," Joplin Emergency Management Director Keith Stammer said on CNN's "American Morning."

More than 1,000 law enforcement officers from 40 agencies in four states were in Joplin aiding with disaster response, said Colin Stosberg, a spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Gov. Jay Nixon dispatched a specialized search-and-rescue team to the city, along with 140 National Guard troops and state troopers from other parts of the state.

President Barack Obama also ordered Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate and an incident management team to Joplin to coordinate federal disaster relief assistance efforts, White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro said Monday.

Searchers were combing the center of the city for
CNN