Missouri tornado: Thunderstorm hinders Joplin rescue
A thunderstorm is hindering search and rescue efforts in a US city hit by a devastating tornado on Sunday.
The tornado tore through Joplin in the state of Missouri, killing at least 89 people and injuring hundreds. Officials expect the death toll to rise.
Joplin official Mark Rohr said the storm cut a path six miles (10km) long, flattening buildings and damaging a hospital that had to be evacuated.
Strong winds and hail are hitting the city, much of which is without power.
The tornado knocked down power lines and telephone services remain largely cut off.
Mississippi governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and warned that more storms are on the way.
Cities in three other Midwestern states have also been badly affected. At least one person was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Last month, tornadoes and storms killed at least 350 people in Alabama and six other southern states.
Tornado sirens rang 20 minutes before the storm struck Joplin, home to about 50,000 people, cutting a gash nearly six miles long and more than half a mile (800m) wide through the city centre.
"There was a loud huffing noise, my windows started popping. I had to get downstairs, glass was flying. I opened a closet and pulled myself into it," Jeff Lehr, a reporter for the Joplin Globe newspaper, told the Associated Press.
"Then you could hear everything go. It tore the roof off my house, everybody's house. I came outside and there was nothing left."
Another resident, Tom Rogers, said his house had been destroyed.
"It's just gone," he told the Joplin Globe. "We heard the tornado sirens for the second time. All of a sudden, everything came crashing down on us. We pulled our heads up and there was nothing."
Much of the city's south side is reported to have been levelled, with churches, schools, businesses and homes reduced to rubble.
Nearly 100 patients at the St John Regional Medical Center in Joplin were evacuated after the hospital took a direct hit.
A resident living 45 miles (70km) away said debris from the hospital had landed in his yard, including medical supplies and X-rays.
A door-to-door search of the damaged area was to begin later on Monday morning, but progress was expected to be slow because of the thunderstorm, and the danger from downed power lines and gas leaks, which caused fires around the city overnight.
Earlier, the Red Cross opened a shelter at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin for victims, spokeswoman Joanne Muir told the BBC.
It had also sent an emergency response vehicle with some supplies such as blankets, cots, water and food to the area, she said.
US President Barack Obama - on his way to the Republic of Ireland - sent his condolences to those affected.
"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the tornadoes and severe weather that struck Joplin, Missouri, as well as communities across the Midwest today," the president said in a statement.
"We commend the heroic efforts by those who have responded and who are working to help their friends and neighbours at this very difficult time."
Governor Nixon said storms had caused extensive damage across Missouri.
"They continue to pose significant risk to lives and property," he said in a statement.
"As a state, we are deploying every agency and resource available to keep Missouri families safe, search for the missing, provide emergency medical care, and begin to recover." he added.
He warned that the storms were not finished.
"I urge Missourians to keep a close eye on the latest weather information and to follow the instructions and warnings of emergency personnel as these deadly storms continue to move through our state," he said.BBC News