The US state of Missouri has released a list of 232 people missing since a devastating tornado struck the city of Joplin on Sunday.
Officials hope many of those are will be found alive and have simply failed to contact relatives.
The tornado killed at least 125 people, injured 750 and wrecked as much as a third of the city, making it one of the most destructive in US history.
US President Barack Obama plans to visit Joplin on Sunday.
Another series of tornadoes struck Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas on Tuesday and Wednesday, killing at least 16 people.
On Thursday, Oklahoma authorities discovered the body of a three-year-old boy who went missing after a tornado struck his home.
‘We are hopeful’
Search teams in Joplin, Missouri, home to 49,000 people, have scoured the wreckage for survivors. But by Thursday morning, authorities began weighing when to begin using bulldozers and other heavy kit to clear debris – a step that would indicate no more survivors were expected to be found.
Joplin Fire Chief Mitch Randles was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “We’ve had stories from earthquakes and tsunamis and other disasters of people being found two or three weeks later, and we are hopeful we’ll have a story like that to tell.”
Those leading the search effort say it is impossible to know how many people are truly missing, since many may have simply left the area and not been in contact with relatives.
Mike Hare said his 16-year-old son Lantz was among the missing. Mr Hare told AP he had searched the neighbourhood where the boy was last seen and had called hospitals as far away as Dallas and Kansas City.
Lantz Hare had been driving with a friend when the tornado struck on Sunday evening. The tornado destroyed the car, and Mr Hare found Lantz’s backpack in the wreckage.
“We know he’s hurt somewhere,” Mr Hare said on Wednesday. “We just can’t sit and keep calling. You’ve got to be moving.”
Pakistan has agreed to allow the CIA to send a forensics team to examine the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed, giving the agency permission to use sophisticated equipment in a search for al-Qaeda materials that might have been hidden inside walls or buried at the site, U.S. officials said.
The arrangement would allow the CIA for the first time to enter a complex that it had previously scrutinized only from a distance, using satellites, stealth drones and spies operating from a nearby safe house that was shuttered when bin Laden was killed.
MORELIA, Mexico – A gunbattle between rival drug gangs in western Mexico left 29 bullet-ridden bodies in fake military uniforms heaped across a roadway and inside bullet-riddled vehicles in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, the army said Thursday.
The bodies, all male, were found Wednesday scattered around 14 shot-up pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, two of which had bulletproofing.
Television images of the scene near the town of Ruiz showed what appeared to have been a convoy of cartel vehicles that had been ambushed or engaged by another column of gunmen on a stretch of rural highway. Military-style boots, bulletproof vests, hand grenades and thousands of rounds of ammunition were also found at the scene.
The army said two suspects wounded in the battle were found at the scene, though there was no information on what gang they belonged to. Nayarit state police had originally said that officers responding to reports of a kidnapping found four wounded men at the scene of the shootout. It was unclear if the two reported by the army were included in, or additional to, that figure.
The army said in a statement that around the same time Wednesday, soldiers engaged in a shootout with armed suspects in a town about 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of Ruiz. Two suspects — a man and a woman — were killed in that confrontation. It was unclear whether the two shootouts were related.
Nayarit and the nearby states of Michoacan and Zacatecas have become battlegrounds for drug cartels fighting for control of the area.
The Sinaloa drug cartel, Mexico’s most powerful, has long been active in Nayarit, but it has recently been challenged by remnants of the Beltran Leyva cartel and the Zetas.
In Michoacan, officials said more than 700 people fled their villages amid fighting between rival drug traffickers, which appeared to be unrelated to the Nayarit conflict.
Michoacan state Civil Defense Director Carlos Mandujano said Wednesday that the villagers were given refuge at five shelters.
It is at least the second time a large number of rural residents have been displaced by drug violence in Mexico. In November, about 400 people in the northern border town of Ciudad Mier took refuge in the neighboring city of Ciudad Aleman following cartel gunbattles. That shelter has since been closed and most have returned to their homes.
Mandujano said the villagers spent Tuesday night at a primitive water park in the town of Buenavista Tomatlan, with most sleeping under open thatched-roof structures.
Mandujano said state authorities were providing sleeping mats, blankets and food for those in the shelter.
Residents told local authorities that gunbattles between rival drug cartel factions had made it too dangerous for them to stay in outlying hamlets. The latest reports said arsonists were burning avocado farms in the nearby town of Acahuato.
“We woke up with fear (on Monday), but things appeared to have quieted down. It wasn’t until later that morning that we saw SUVs with armed men driving by very fast and shooting at each other,” said a woman who did not want to be named for security reasons.
Several displaced people said they would stay at the shelters all week before considering going back to their villages.
“I am not scared, but my children are,” said a mother, who asked not to be quoted by name because of fear of retaliation.
The fighting in Michoacan is believed to involve rival factions of the Michoacan-based La Familia drug cartel, some of whose members now call themselves “The Knights Templar.”
Mexico still has fewer people displaced by violence than countries like Colombia, according to the Norway-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, which tracks such figures. It estimates about 230,000 people in Mexico have been driven from their homes, often to stay with relatives or in the United States. An estimated 3.6 million to 5.2 million people have been displaced by decades of drug- and guerrilla-war violence in Colombia.
Buenavista police chief Othoniel Montes Herrera said he has neither the manpower nor the armament to patrol rural areas frequented by drug gangs. Sending ill-armed officers out there “would be certain death, and we’re not thinking of putting our personnel at that risk.”
Drug violence has been on the rise in Nayarit, a Pacific Coast state known for its surfing and beach towns. In October, gunmen killed 15 people at a car wash in the capital of Tepic, an attack that police said bore the characteristics of organized crime. The bodies of 12 murder victims, eight of them partially burned, were found on a Nayarit dirt road a year ago. Officials have not identified the gangs fighting there.
Reliever David Robertson hustled out of the clubhouse after yesterday’s 7-3 win over the Jays. He was bound for his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala., which was devastated by a tornado last month.
Robertson and his wife, Erin, have set up a foundation to raise money for the victims of the disaster, and Robertson traveled there last night to see the devastation first-hand. He will spend today’s off day meeting with community leaders as he tries to figure out how he can best help the area.
“I’m a little nervous to go down there and see how one bad day and one tornado can destroy a town pretty much,” Robertson said. “It’s kind of weird to know that everything you’re used to seeing isn’t there anymore. I’m really nervous to see how bad it is.”
The 26-year-old reliever will donate $100 for every strikeout to the David and Erin Robertson Fund. They also have set up a web site: http://www.highsocksforhope.com where people can find more information.
Robertson grew up in Tuscaloosa and went to college there at Alabama. His family’s home was not affected by the tornado, but he has friends who have lost their homes.