Obama tours tornado-ravaged Joplin

Last Updated 5:31 p.m. ET

JOPLIN, Mo. — President Barack Obama arrived in Missouri on Sunday to tour the devastation wrought by a monster tornado and console the bereaved.

On its approach Air Force One swept over a massive swath of brown as far as the eye could see — a landscape of flattened houses and stripped trees.

Gov. Jay Nixon and others greeted the president on the tarmac before they set out for their first stop, a walking tour of a destroyed neighborhood.

The president visited with survivors and family members of the worst tornado in decades - a monster EF-5 storm packing 200 mph winds that tore through Joplin a week ago. More than 130 people were killed and more than 900 injured.

The president toured destroyed neighborhoods in the city of 50,000, and spoke at a memorial service being held by local clergy and Gov. Jay Nixon for those who lost their lives.

"This is not just your tragedy. This is a national tragedy, and that means there will be a national response," Mr. Obama said.

The president's motorcade pulled into a neighborhood where downed trees cleaved open houses, roofs were stripped or blown off, cars were cratered and splintered wood was everywhere. He saw nothing whole, but rather small domestic sights — a view into a room with a TV still in place, a recliner sitting amid rubble, a washer-dryer standing next to a decimated house. American flags were planted here and there in the mess.

"Sorry for your loss," Mr. Obama told an anguished woman, hugging her twice as they talked. Another woman told him that her uncle lives up the road — he survived but his house did not. "Tell your uncle we're praying for him," the president said.

"We appreciate everything you guys are doing, God bless you," Mr. Obama to those working at the scene.

"One of the things that's been incredible is to see how many people from out of state have driven from as far away as Texas, nearby Illinois, people just coming here to volunteer - firefighters, ordinary citizens," Mr. Obama said. "It's an example of what the American spirit is all about. And that gives us a lot of encouragement at a time when obviously people are going through a lot of hardship."

President Obama vowed: "We are going to be here long after the cameras leave. We're not going to stop 'til Joplin's back on its feet."

Above: A motorcade carrying President Obama passes through a devastated Joplin, Mo., neighborhood Sunday, May 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Mike O'Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the number of unaccounted "just dropped" to 40 because of the latest deceased whose next-of-kin have been notified. The number had stood at about 100.

As authorities pressed on with the tasks of poking through wreckage and identifying the dead.

Video: Joplin awaits federal financial aid
2011 deadliest year for tornadoes since 1950

Photos: Joplin tornado aftermath
Joplin tornado: How you can help

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