Death toll in Joplin twister rises by 6 to 132

/ Source: msnbc.com news services

The death toll from the tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., on Sunday rose to 132 following the discovery of six more bodies, the city said in a statement Friday.

Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston earlier told NBC News that he expected the number to continue to rise slowly as debris is removed.

State officials also reported that 156 people still remain unaccounted for. A list released Thursday showed 232 missing, but that was quickly reduced as some people were found to be alive and others already reported as having died.

More than 900 people were injured in the deadliest twister to hit the U.S. since 1947.

State officials who were criticized for problems with information made available to the public brought in new resources.

"We will keep a relentless focus on the search, rescue and identification" of the missing and "we will not rest until everyone has been accounted for," Gov. Jay Nixon said.

Getting accurate information out of the six-mile-long scar left by the tornado has been a struggle. Cell phone service was spotty, landlines dropped and electric power remained cut for thousands across the city.

There was joy for some as people feared dead were found alive, and heartbreak for others as the worst was confirmed.

On the wall of the Red Cross shelter in Joplin was taped a poster with a picture of Emma Marie Hamp-Haines, on which someone had scrawled "FOUND." Hamp-Haines was reunited with her daughter at the center on Wednesday.

"That made it worth it, to see a family brought together," said Amie Houston, a Missouri State University student, who watched the reunion.

The meeting of mother and daughter was a welcome happy ending in a town where too many other stories have ended in shock and tears.

Reports late Thursday indicated that Mike Hare's search for his 16-year-old son Lantz ended in heartbreak.

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Hare had been scouring the ravaged neighborhood where his son was seen last. He had called hospitals from Dallas to Kansas City and taken dozens of calls offering advice, prayers and hopeful tips.

Hunting friends and familyLocal radio filled with callers hunting for friends and family. A Safe and Well list maintained by the Red Cross had more than 1,800 names registered and more than 79,000 searches by Thursday morning, spokesman Jim Rettew said.

Searchers hung five posters, including that of Emma Marie Hamp-Haines, on a glass case behind the Red Cross workers.

"One of the first questions we're asking is 'Have you notified your family? Do they know you're safe?'" Rettew said.

Nixon said Thursday the number of missing had fallen as stories like Hamp-Haines's came to light.

He acknowledged the frustration and confusion over initial estimates of a staggering 1,500 missing reported for two days following the tornado.

As briefings continued for the media, the number of missing did not decline. Then on Wednesday, officials abruptly stopped giving out a figure at all.

State officials directed 60 investigators starting on Wednesday to work around the clock to deliver Thursday's more accurate number, Nixon said.

"We have absolutely no reason to hide anything from anybody," Nixon said.

Some of the remains recovered so far have been in very poor condition, Nixon told reporters. Morgue workers, including a federal team, were working to ensure there were no incorrect identifications, he said.

"I don't know what you say to someone who was sitting at home eating dinner and heard the sirens and haven't seen their loved ones since," Nixon said.