Mayor: Joplin "a pretty tough community"

JOPLIN, Mo. - The death toll from last weekend's tornado rose to 132 on Friday. Another 156 people are still missing.

And the first funerals are being held now.

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports that the priority in Joplin continues to be identifying those who have died and notifying their families. And while that process continues, so does the enormous task of clean-up.

So now it's the small things that are big needs - food, water, shelter.

Joplin tornado death toll raised to 132

20,000 volunteers have registered to help. Shelters are housing the homeless. Aid is pouring in from individuals and corporations across the country.

Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston said he has been "overwhelmed" by the response of others to volunteer, donate or offer help in some way.

"At this point, our needs are going to be rather long-term," Woolston said on CBS' "The Early Show on Saturday Morning." "We've got a lot of donations of goods, water, food, clothing, all those kinds of things. I would suggest that probably if somebody wanted to do something that couldn't come here, probably a financial donation would be the best thing, and we've got a couple of avenues how they can do that. But finances will be needed, as I said, months and even years out, and probably some of the things that we'll need then we don't even recognize right now."

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But even with so much giving, there is no escaping the loss.

After five days, these sisters finally got their father's body released from the morgue. Dean Wells was at work at Home Depot when the tornado ripped through the building. He died wearing his orange apron.

Now Dean's funeral will be held later today.

But in a sign of hope, a couple here in Joplin - their church untouched by the tornado - plans to go through with their wedding this afternoon.

Aaron Cox and Brooke Watson said they are "blessed" to have survived, and that they have received encouragement to continue with their wedding plans. "I don't know if the message has anything to do with our wedding," Watson said on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning." "I think the message has to do with how the city has stepped forward, how people have come together for all of this."

Joplin couple to wed despite disaster
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Photos: Joplin tornado destruction

On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Mayor Woolston said his city is coping "pretty well."

"On Tuesday afternoon, less than 48 hours after the event, I saw people out going through their homes, searching for personal mementos, trying to salvage what they could," Woolston said. "On I believe it was Thursday morning, less than 96 hours after the event, I actually saw a building going back up. Walls were up. They were putting up roof rafters. And I believe it was yesterday morning, our public school district announced that they had begun reconstruction and rebuilding of one of our newer middle schools that they'd been in for just under a year.

"Obviously it's still quite a shock for us; it will take some time to get through from an emotional standpoint," he said. "It's a pretty tough community and they'll respond."

Joplin tornado death toll raised to 132

He said search and rescue operations are still running for the 156 people still listed as missing.

"We continue to search all the properties," he said. "We have completed a couple of days ago at least four searches, two of those searches completely with dogs. We'll continue to search, and as we go through and do our cleanup, we will not stop searching for our people until the last piece of debris is removed from the last parcel of property. We will continue to search for our folks."

President Barack Obama will tour the tornado damage Sunday when he arrives in Joplin. When asked what he hopes the president will see, Woolston said, "Just like to show him the level of devastation here. I think it's difficult to comprehend, and I know so many people have watched video and seen photos of the area. But the photos I don't think really do it justice because you don't get the panoramic view of how widespread it really is. Unless you've been through something like this and have a frame of reference, I think it is a bit difficult to comprehend."

He also said steps have been taken to combat looting. "We initially tried to set up a permitting process that would require folks to provide some identification and get some sort of a name badge to be in particular areas, But we found that was somewhat cumbersome, wasn't working well," Woolston said. "Now we're just saturating the area with law enforcement.

"We have a curfew from 9:00 in the evening until 6:00 in the morning and trying to make sure that we're saturated in those areas where [looting] might occur."

He said there have been 17 arrests for looting, and he had asked the police chief to prosecute the [perpetrators to the fullest extent. "The last thing we need is someone in here taking advantage of people who are in probably the worst position ever in their lives. And I think we should be very aggressive in going after those people."

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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