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JOPLIN, MO (AP) – Authorities say at least 89 people died in the massive tornado that struck the southwest Missouri city of Joplin.

City manager Mark Rohr announced the number at a pre-dawn news conference outside the wreckage of a hospital that took a direct hit.

Rohr said the twister cut a path nearly six miles long and more than a half-mile wide through the center of town.

Much of the city’s south side was leveled, with businesses, homes and restaurants reduced to ruins.

Officials struggling to communicate without power and cell phone service had earlier been leery of putting a hard figure on a death toll.

The Missouri National Guard is continuing its search for the injured throughout the night.

Emergency management officials are rushing heavy equipment to Joplin.

The storm left behind piles of brick and wood where homes once stood. Cars were ripped apart and thrown on top of each other.

President Barack Obama expressed condolences to families of those who died.

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