After 10 days of searching for the missing and trying to identify those killed in the tornado that ripped through Joplin, authorities said Wednesday they’ve accounted for everyone.
They’ve also confirmed 134 deaths, but caution that the toll could still rise because several people remain hospitalized in critical condition.
In an emotional news conference in Joplin, Gov. Jay Nixon said that everyone reported missing had been located and all of the deceased had been identified. After that news, many broke into applause.
“A huge weight of uncertainty has been lifted from the shoulders of this community,” Nixon told The Star Wednesday evening. “We were glad to help bring closure on this section of what’s going to be a very long battle to restore Joplin.”
A week ago, Nixon directed the Missouri Highway Patrol to focus on locating everyone who couldn’t be accounted for, a list that initially was as high as 1,300. Since then, troopers and civilians with the patrol have worked round the clock.
They’ve notified the next of kin of the people who died, and all remains at the temporary morgue have been identified, authorities said. Though earlier information indicated the number of dead could be higher, authorities believe they’ve accounted for all remains taken to the morgue.
“This is a big moment,” said Seth Bundy, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, which worked with the Highway Patrol during the process. “ To complete a task like this can inspire folks and provide an indication that the town is moving forward.”
Early Wednesday, crews began removing curbside debris in the first phase of two phases of cleanup.
No one knows how long both phases will take. City officials on Wednesday advised residents and volunteers helping with the effort to wear face masks because of dust from the debris.
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