Death toll from Joplin tornado is 134, officials say

KANSAS CITY, Mo Wed Jun 1, 2011 5:22pm EDT

Volunteer Mackenzie Finklea, of Quincy, Il., looks through a cookbook in a house destroyed by the May 22 tornado in Joplin May 31, 2011. REUTERS/Sarah Conard

Volunteer Mackenzie Finklea, of Quincy, Il., looks through a cookbook in a house destroyed by the May 22 tornado in Joplin May 31, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Sarah Conard

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KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - Missouri officials on Wednesday announced that 134 people died in the May 22 tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri.

Last week, local officials put the toll at as high as 142, but the Missouri Department of Public Safety took over the deaths investigation and methodically accounted for all people reported missing.

The toll is subject to increase if any of the approximately 900 injured does not survive, said Seth Bundy, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

On Tuesday, the department reported that 146 sets of human remains, some from dismembered bodies, had been recovered. Bundy said all of those remains have been linked to the 134 confirmed dead.

The coroner has authorized the release of all deceased persons to their families, officials said. At of 1 p.m. local time Wednesday, 119 victims have been released.

The massive tornado cut a six-mile swath through the southwest Missouri city. It was the deadliest single tornado in the United States since 1947.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Joplin Wednesday to announce an initial $5.8 million investment to create temporary jobs for workers left unemployed by the tornado.

The program, which will be funded through the federal Workforce Investment Act, will employ more than 400 workers in temporary jobs to assist with clean-up and humanitarian efforts in Jasper and Newton counties.

(Writing and reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)

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