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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Anguished hunt for scores missing after US tornado

Search for baby torn from mother's arms by twister
Joplin, Missouri (AFP) May 25, 2011 - It was every parent's worst nightmare -- rushing into the house for shelter as a massive twister bore down only to have your baby ripped from your arms. Three days after the deadly tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri little Skyular Logsdon's family was still desperately searching for the 16-month-old toddler. His mother and father had been hospitalized so it was up to his aunts, uncles and grandparents to scour the rubble near his flattened home and check hospitals and the morgue. "No, he has not been found," his grandmother, Milissa Burns, posted sadly on the site Wednesday morning. "I'm following all leads both good and bad. I will let u all know as soon as we know something either way... I just pray we all can work together on this. God bless."

The family created a Facebook page, hoping against hope that someone might have found Skyular or could help them with their search. The page garnered tips and thousands of prayers after his distraught grandmother spoke to CNN, telling them how Skyular's mom remembers "flying around the house and hitting things" then being knocked unconscious after her arm broke. "I'm terrified, I don't know where to look next," Burns said. At least 125 were killed and 1,500 people were reported missing after a massive tornado tore apart everything it touched along a path four miles (six kilometers) long and three quarters of a mile (over a kilometer) wide of this city of 50,000. Skuylar's Facebook page was inundated with prayers of support from around the world, and then condolences and confusion after the Kansas City Star reported that Skyular's body had been found in the morgue Wednesday evening. The little boy's great-uncle made the identification, the paper said, citing Rhonda Brewer, the stepmother of the child's uncle.

"I would like to take a moment to thank everyone for their support throughout the hunt for Baby Skyular," Brewer wrote on the Facebook page. "This leg of the journey has now come to a end and a new one begins for the family of Skyular. Skyular has been called home to be with the angels while the family has to deal with the loss and have time to grieve for him. While we all know he is in a better place that dose not make it any easier for the family." The family of a missing three year old boy -- who was ripped from his pregnant mother's arms as she cowered in a bathtub with her three young children in Piedmont, Oklahoma as a tornado tore through Tuesday night -- was still holding out hope Wednesday.

"Dear Heavenly Father as it is getting darker please wrap your loving arms around Ryan," his family posted on a Facebook page. "Please keep him safe and unafraid until he is found. Please give his parents and sister peace and strength to get through the night. In Jesus name Amen." Ryan Hamil's mother Catherine was in critical condition and his 15-month old brother Cole did not survive. His five-year-old sister was in serious condition. The family of Will Norton -- who was sucked out of his father's Hummer while they were driving home from his high school graduation in Joplin Sunday -- has also turned to Facebook. "Continuing to try to get the word out to search fields, trees, etc. I'd like to have people get on their ATV's or even walk fields, wooded areas, etc to look for those that are lost," his Aunt Tracey wrote. "I'd love to find Will and any others that are missing. There is still time to help them. Keep praying!"
by Staff Writers
Joplin, Missouri (AFP) May 25, 2011
Rescue teams and anguished families Wednesday were desperately searching for nearly 1,500 people listed as missing since a tornado ripped through a Missouri town, killing at least 125 residents.

But hopes of finding more survivors were fading as the third day of painstaking searches through the devastated homes of Joplin found no one in the rubble -- neither dead or alive.

"We're disappointed, but we're also relieved that we didn't find people in there," fire chief Mitch Randles said.

Officials are hoping that many of the missing have simply failed to check in with friends or family, but they also caution that the death toll is sure to rise given the incredible scope of destruction.

In what is one of the worst tornado seasons on record after a series of twisters killed hundreds in southern US states last month, Sunday's twister in Joplin is now the worst single tornado to strike America in six decades.

The massive twister tore apart everything it touched along a path four miles (six kilometers) long and three quarters of a mile (over a kilometer) wide of this city of 50,000.

"It is a devastating scene," said Missouri public safety communications chief Mike O'Connell.

"I have seen a lot of tornado damage in the past, but never such a wide path, such a large path."

Heartbreaking stories were being replayed hourly on the local radio and on social networking sites as people searched for their loved ones, including panicked parents separated from their children.

The family of 16-month-old Skyular Logsdon launched an anxious search using the social network Facebook for the baby boy ripped from his mother's arms by the powerful winds.

"No, he has not been found," his grandmother, Milissa Burns, posted sadly on the site Wednesday. "I'm following all leads both good and bad... I just pray we all can work together on this. God bless."

Teenager Lantz Hare is also missing since being out driving with friends when the massive funnel cloud, with winds of up to 200 miles (320 kilometers) an hour, hit Joplin with devastating force.

"He was on the phone with another friend, we believe, when the tornado actually hit the car. His friend Ryan says he could literally hear the swoosh came through and the phone went dead," his mother Michelle told CNN.

The American Red Cross has set up a website for people to list the names of the missing, but they have had little success so far reuniting families.

"It's been very difficult. We'd like to see a much greater number of families reunited," said Bill Benson, who is handling the Red Cross's social media and online outreach.

"We have a constant influx of folks coming in desperate asking can you help me -- we just don't know where to go."

Assistant shelter manager Amanda Marshall is among them -- her four-year-old niece and the girl's grandparents were nowhere to be found when her brother discovered the bodies of his wife and other daughter.

"I keep checking my cell phone -- I'm waiting for a text saying she's OK," Marshall told AFP.

Further complicating matters is the fact that officials have not released the names of the dead.

More than 8,000 structures in this town bordering the heartland states of Kansas and Oklahoma were damaged or destroyed when the twister came roaring through with just a 24-minute warning.

In yet another tragedy, more twisters hit Oklahoma late Tuesday, killing at least eight people.

"We've got pretty extensive damage across the state," Jerry Smith, emergency management director for Canadian County, told AFP.

Joplin avoided a second hit by tornado, but the violent storm system rattled already shaky nerves as residents were forced to seek shelter from strong winds and blinding rain.

US President Barack Obama, on a visit to London, again sent his condolences to the people of Missouri, ahead of a visit to the area on Sunday.

"We have been battered by some storms. Not just this week but over the last several months. The largest death toll and devastation we have ever seen from tornadoes in the United States of America."

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced plans for a community memorial service Sunday as he vowed to do everything possible to help residents recover and rebuild.

"We feel it's extremely important for everyone to come together to recognize the significance of the loss here but also to be prepared to move forward together," he told reporters.

"We're going to battle together and come back as a stronger community."




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