FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2011


State public safety officials report progress in reducing number of unaccounted-for individuals from Joplin tornado

State officials release updated list of unaccounted-for individuals; continue to ask Missourians to help locate family, friends and loved ones

The Missouri Department of Public Safety today reported progress in the effort to determine the status of individuals who were unaccounted-for as a result of Sunday's devastating tornado in Joplin. On May 25, at the direction of Gov. Jay Nixon, the department assumed control of the process of locating unaccounted-for individuals.

On May 26, the department released a list of 232 individuals for whom an official missing persons report had been filed. More than 60 law-enforcement and emergency-management personnel, including Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers, State Emergency Management Agency staff, federal partners, and local detectives are working under the department's direction on this top priority.

At a briefing today, the department announced that the number of unaccounted-for individuals is now 156. The updates from yesterday are:

· 90 persons reported located

· 6 persons confirmed deceased by the federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) and next of kin notified.

· 22 additional missing persons reports filed

· 2 persons confirmed as duplicates

Persons categorized as "reported located" are individuals who the Missouri State Highway Patrol has received credible information indicating that they are alive. Following the release and posting of the initial list yesterday, the Highway Patrol received many phone calls and e-mails that included credible information about the location of individuals. The Patrol is also monitoring postings on Facebook and other social media sites. The Patrol and local police continue to pursue information to confirm the status of these individuals.

"The 24-hour a day effort to account for all individuals is making progress, and we will continue to work around the clock," said Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Andrea Spillars. "We believe that the release of the names of persons for whom an official missing persons report had been filed has been an important tool in our effort to account for all individuals and we urge the public to continue to check the list and to contact the Missouri State Highway Patrol if they have information about the status of individuals still listed as unaccounted-for.”

To help reduce the list and speed the process of reuniting tornado survivors with loved ones, the public should call the Missouri State Highway Patrol Found-Persons Hotline: 417-895-6868.

To get direction on filing a report about an unaccounted-for individual, families and loved ones may call 417-659-5464 or file a report with the Highway Patrol in person at the Billingsley Student Center on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.

The names of these unaccounted-for individuals are being cross-referenced with all hospitals that admitted or treated patients injured during the tornado, shelters housing tornado survivors, applicants for disaster assistance and the Red Cross Safe and Well program. Additionally, the Department of Public Safety is working with cell phone service providers to check whether cell phones have been used by individuals who have been unaccounted-for list since their names were added to the list.

Deputy Director Spillars restated today that officials understand that a number of the individuals still listed as unaccounted-for are persons believed to be deceased and who are in the process of being confirmed as deceased by the federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team and next of kin notified. At Gov. Nixon's direction, additional state resources are being deployed to expedite the notification of next of kin. Spillars stated that the department empathizes with relatives and loved ones who would like the names removed immediately, but said the department believes it is important to wait for final word from DMORT that identification has been confirmed and next of kin notified.

The unaccounted-for list is available on the Missouri Department of Public Safety Web site, www.dps.mo.gov and will be updated daily.

-END-

For more information, call 573-751-4819 or e-mail [email protected]