Devastating: Authorities confirm 89 dead after Joplin, MO tornado

JOPLIN, MO (RNN) - Authorities confirmed 89 are dead, and anticipate that number to rise, after a  massive tornado slammed the city of Joplin Sunday evening.

"It is indeed a sad day in Joplin. It is with a heavy heart that I report that we have 89 confirmed deaths due to the tornado," Joplin City Manager, Mark Rohr said Monday morning during a news conference.

Several are still trapped in the 25-to-30 percent of the city devastated by Sunday's storm, according to the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management.

"We are planning on and have in the works, getting the rest of emergency crews out there, to basically do a door-by-door grid search of the city," Joplin Fire Department's Mitch Randles said.

The tornado, that was at least one half mile wide, tore through the middle of the city at approximately 5:30 p.m. Sunday, according to Rohr.

Jeff Lehr, a reporter for the Joplin Globe, described the storm to the AP: "There was a loud huffing noise, my windows started popping. I had to get downstairs, glass was flying. I opened a closet and pulled myself into it," he said. "Then you could hear everything go. It tore the roof off my house, everybody's house. I came outside and there was nothing left."

Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to aid in search and rescue.

Healthcare professionals are being called in to assist with injuries.  The Red Cross is also activating volunteers.

A St. John's Regional Medical Center spokesperson has reported that patients are being moved to other facilities.

"It's going to be a long night and a difficult recovery," Nixon told CNN.

Phone and communications are cut off inside the city.

The storm was part of a series that battered the Midwest on Sunday night. Tornado warnings and watches were posted from Texas to Michigan, the AP reported.

Copyright 2011 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.