Joplin update: FEMA says it's here for the long haul

Todd G. Higdon

The death toll from Sunday’s tornado in Joplin, Mo., has risen to 117.

The announcement came Monday afternoon during a joint press conference from the city of Joplin, the Missouri National Guard and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

“The city of Joplin is continuing search and rescue efforts to the many affected during this tornado that swept through the middle of Joplin on Sunday late afternoon,” said Mark Rohr, Joplin city manager. “At this time, search efforts (Monday) have been effective in rescuing seven people (17 in total).

“Emergency personnel have rescued those buried in debris as part of their efforts during the course of the day. More than 40 agencies have responded with the exercise, including an estimated 450 personnel members. With this update, it is also sad news to report that we have confirmed 117 casualties at this point and time. We will continue the search and rescue efforts. The weather has not been the most cooperative (Monday) and we anticipate that rescue efforts will be ongoing for a few days.”

Nixon told the media at the press conference that he had spoken with President Barack Obama Monday morning about the tornado.

“He indicated he would provide whatever support is necessary,” Nixon said. “This has been a dramatic and difficult time. We ask that everyone through the region, the country, to continue to pray for folks. The seven rescued (Monday) means that there are other people that could be surviving.

“We are going to cover every foot of this town, we are going to make sure search and rescue, that every person was here or is here has been accounted for. We remain positive and optimistic that there are still lives out there to be saved until this matter is completed. We will finish this task, backing up these great leaders at the local level. We have withstood a tremendous amount of pain already, we will (be) with them, we will complete this task, and we will rebuild this city.”

Stephen Danner with the Missouri National Guard said, “We are going to work with local community to bring in the right amount of support at the right time in the right manner.”

Mark Rohr, Joplin city manager, also stated that Joplin has suffered a great tragedy, but he offered hope.

“We are a great community that has shared difficult times like this in the past, with ice storms, flooding and, most recently, last winter with the blizzard. Joplin is a city of neighbors helping neighbors, and with this spirit, we will overcome this hardship,” Rohr said.

Also during the press conference, Richard Serino with FEMA told the residents they will be here for the long haul.

“The president has declared out of this disaster declaration, which means people of the affected counties are eligible for assistance, as well as, obviously, the city. But one thing that we want to make sure is that people have the opportunity to contact FEMA to file for assistance.”

To file a report with FEMA, call 1-800-621-FEMA, visit or visit on your mobile phone.

“Any way of those ways, people can register,” Serino said. “As we stated, it is very important to realize that FEMA is going to be here. We are here to support in as many ways possible. This is going to take a whole community effort. It is citizens helping citizens, neighbor helping neighbor.”

Missouri Congressman Billy Long was also at the press conference and said what he saw when he arrived in Joplin.

“If you have seen the pictures on TV, to me, they don’t do it anywhere near justice. The best way that I can describe it is a movie of a nuclear disaster, and it looks like a nuclear bomb was hit,” he said.