UPDATE 1-Death toll from Joplin tornado rises to 142

Sat May 28, 2011 7:29pm EDT

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(Updates with new death toll, details on identification)

JOPLIN, Mo May 28 (Reuters) - The death toll from the powerful tornado that tore through the Missouri city of Joplin rose to 142 on Saturday as officials continued to identify victims, the city said.

Sunday's tornado was rated an EF-5, or the strongest possible, and is already the deadliest single twister in the United States since 1947.

The tornado injured more than 900 people, and officials said that number could be higher because some people did not go to hospitals. More than a hundred people are missing and unaccounted for, they said.

Missouri officials, who are working to identify victims, cautioned that the new death toll represented 142 sets of human remains and that there was a chance remains of one person were in more than one set.

Some families have expressed frustration at the slow pace of identifying the victims and releasing the remains and their inability to enter the morgue to view and identify them. Authorities say they need to be sure no mistakes are made.

The tornado scored a direct hit on the city of 50,000 people in southwest Missouri and left a swath of destruction nearly a mile (1.6 km) wide, damaging about 8,000 buildings.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the traumatized city of 50,000 people on Sunday, following his return from a European trip. (Reporting by Elliott Blackburn; Editing by Greg McCune and Julie Ingwersen)

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