Though the tornado hit the city of Joplin, Missouri, last week, the city is still in a state of shock over the damage caused to the blue-collar nest that was once home to 50,000 residents.
“Right now the focus is still on search and rescue. We still have people that are unaccounted for, so until we get the last person accounted for, whether alive or not, we are just going to keep the search and rescue going before we focus on the cleanup and the plan of action,” Melodee Colbert-Kean, the mayor pro-tem of Joplin tells BET.com.
The F5 tornado that hit the city killed a total of 125 people, and the numbers keep rising. According to Joplin, about a third of the city was destroyed. In an effort to think of an appropriate adjective to describe the magnitude of damage, she juxtaposedly called it, “awesome devastation.”
The early search efforts were clouded by dark fog and rain, and now that the sunshine is out, Colbert-Kean is a little unsure of how to feel.
“Now that we have clear weather, it’s really highlighting the ruins of peoples’ lives, shedding an eerie sunlight on the destruction.”
On Wednesday, the list of missing people in the city reached over 1,500. Thursday, emergency workers searched for more than 230 people on a list of those who still have not been found. Colbert-Kean hopes that a lot of those names had travel plans and were out of town, not stuck under the rubble.
President Obama has officially declared the city of Joplin a disaster area and the House panel has approved a $1 billion aid-package to ensure federal disaster-relief.
Some of those key areas needing recovery are the local hospital, which is now closed due to damage caused by the tornado. Colbert-Kean says that the downtown area has served as a triage to serve those who were not as severely injured and to take the pressure off the one hospital that actually is open in the area.
The city also served as home to Joplin High School, the only high school in the city that happened to be newly-remodeled just over two years ago. The high school is now destroyed.
The town that once gained its fame as a stop along route 66 will now be remembered as a town that was almost completely wiped out by a tornado.
“You don’t ever know when it can hit your town, you never know, and you just want people to be prepared, “Colbert-Kean says.
For tips on how to prepare for a tornado, visit here.
(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)