Joplin tornado death toll raised to 132

Updated at 1:59 p.m. ET

JOPLIN, Mo. - The death toll from the massive tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., reached 132 Friday, a city spokeswoman said, while the state worked to pare down the list of people missing and unaccounted for since the storm.

Joplin city spokeswoman Lynn Onstot confirmed the new death toll to The Associated Press shortly before state officials announced that the missing list had been trimmed to 156 people.

Officials were working 24 hours a day to trim the list that stood at 232 a day earlier, Missouri Department of Public Safety deputy director Andrea Spillars told a morning news conference.

Spillars says at least 90 people on the original list had been located alive. But at least six were identified as among the dead, and some new names had been added to the list. Two names on the list were identified as duplicates.

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Authorities had said they believed many of the missing were alive and safe but simply hadn't been in touch with friends and family, in part because cell phone service has been spotty. But they also had cautioned that they believed many on the list may have been killed in the storm.

Sunday's savage storm was the nation's deadliest single tornado in more than 60 years. More than 900 people were injured.

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Identification of the deceased has been slow because officials have taken extra precautions since a woman misidentified one victim as her son in the chaotic hours after the tornado hit. A federal forensics team of 50 to 75 disaster mortuary specialists has been at work in six refrigerated trucks, collecting DNA samples for testing, taking fingerprints and looking for tattoos, body piercings, moles and other distinctive marks.

As emergency workers searched Thursday for the people listed as missing, one was sitting on a wooden chair outside the wreckage of her home, cuddling her cat.

Sally Adams, 75, said neighbors rescued her Sunday after the storm destroyed her house and took her to a friend's home. When The Associated Press told her she was on the missing list, Adams laughed and said "Get me off of there!"

The AP found that the unaccounted-for Thursday included two survivors staying at a hotel, six that a relative said were staying with friends and one that a former employee said had been moved from his nursing home.

Stephen Whitehead, of the Red Cross' Safe and Well registry, which keeps track of the accounted-for, said that since the missing list came out earlier Thursday, he learned that at least nine are people who are dead. Whitehead said he did not know whether those nine were among the known fatalities.

Adams said she lost her cell phone in the storm and had no way of contacting her family to let them know she was OK. She was placed on the missing list after relatives called a hot line and posted Facebook messages saying she was missing.

Her son, Bill Adams, said he told authorities his mother was alive after he learned she was safe, yet she remained on their unaccounted-for list Thursday afternoon.

Mike O'Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said he wouldn't call Adams' listing a mistake and finding her is "a good thing." He urged other survivors to check the list and call if they see their names.

The AP found Mike and Betty Salzer at a hotel being used by visiting journalists.

"Well, for Heaven's sakes," Betty Salzer, 74, said when the AP showed her the list.

The couple have been staying at the hotel since their home was destroyed Sunday. Betty Salzer said their names might have come from a Facebook message her daughter posted before they reached her Monday morning.

Not all of the stories of the missing will end so well.

Some of their families waited Thursday for their remains to be released. One victim's funeral was scheduled for Friday morning in Galena, Kan., and other services were scheduled for the weekend.

But some of the bodies have yet to be identified.

Chris Haddock, 23, said his father was one of the deceased on the missing list. A commercial truck driver found 62-year-old Paul Haddock's body in his pickup truck behind a flattened Walmart.

"They found his wallet and his cell phone in his pocket," Chris Haddock said. "That's how they know it's him."

In another example of potential overlap, 12 residents of the Greenbriar nursing home are on the missing list. But nursing home administrators reported earlier that 11 people died in the tornado; only one was known missing.

One of the 12 is Dorothy Hartman, an Alzheimer's patient. Pamela McBroom, 49, who lives near the nursing home, said one of her daughters used to work there, developed a soft spot for Hartman and introduced them. Hartman was frail "but very positive and full of life," she said.

McBroom said she and her 16-year-old daughter were hiding in a closet when the tornado tore their walls and roof away. Her walls gone, McBroom could see the mayhem at Greenbriar.

"I could see people flying out of the nursing home by my house," McBroom said. "I could hear them screaming. Just screaming. It was horrible."

Nursing home officials haven't said whether Hartman was one of the 11 killed.

Identification of the deceased has been slow because officials have taken extra precautions since a woman misidentified one victim as her son in the chaotic hours after the tornado hit, Newton County coroner Mark Bridges said.

"That's the reason why we didn't release anybody else until we at least had dental records," Bridges said.

A federal forensics team of 50 to 75 disaster mortuary specialists has been at work in six refrigerated trucks, collecting DNA samples for testing, taking fingerprints and looking for tattoos, body piercings, moles and other distinctive marks. Bridges expected as many as 19 bodies would be released Thursday.

He said he's been explaining the reason for the delays to grieving families "all day long."

"It breaks my heart," he said.

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