Missouri Gov: Still Searching For Joplin Survivors, "House By House"

May 24, 2011

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly search and rescue crews are still trying to find survivors from the horrific storm that crashed into Joplin on Sunday night. Speaking on Morning Edition, Nixon said crews are clawing desperately through the rubble of houses, apartment buildings and businesses, trying to find anyone left alive. They've had major setbacks because severe storms keep pounding the area. Last night, two police officers participating in the effort were struck by lightning and Nixon says one of them was badly injured.

Nixon says he doesn't know if the police officer will survive. Search teams had to take shelter and wait for the latest storm to pass before they could get started again. The governor says 17 people have been rescued from tornado wreckage and crews continue to work through the rain. Nixon says the death toll will rise sharply in Joplin but he wouldn't estimate the number of missing people: he said it's a lot more than 17 people.

One of Joplin's hospitals is closed: it lost the top two floors of its building and all of its windows and patients have been transferred elsewhere. Gov. Nixon says hospital debris turned up 70 miles away. Nixon says the main priority is to finish a painstaking search "house by house, car by car, block by block".

Gov. Nixon says he spoke earlier today to President Obama who plans to visit the area on Sunday. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.