TODAY   |  May 24, 2011

Joplin mayor: Hoping for more survivors

Mike Woolston, the mayor of tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., tells TODAY’s Meredith Vieira he is still hopeful that there are more survivors to be found.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the mayor of joplin along with craig fugate. good morning to you both.

>> good morning.

>> mayor, over the past couple of dayses your town was described as a war zone . the pictures bear that out. it's terrible destruction. do you feel, are you confident you have the resources you need to handle this disaster?

>> i think we do, meredith. we have had overwhelming support from agencies at the local, state and federal level . mr. fugate said he's visited with the white house . we have had pledges from virtually every level that we'll have resources and support we need.

>> you have spoken to the white house . what have they pledged to do for joplin ?

>> i spoke to the president this morning. yesterday the president declared this a disaster area , adding it to the ongoing response in missouri to other tornadoeses whi which meanses people can apply to fema. we're here for the long haul, not just for the response, as the mayor said. local and state officials have that. we are here to support them as we think about what it will take to recover and rebuild.

>> there's been good news though. 17 people pulled out alive on monday. that's heartening, obviously for folks there in joplin . where do you stand in terms of rescue and recovery? do you have any idea how many people are still unaccounted for?

>> we don't have any idea. i stopped at the emergency on raceses se -- operations centerer this morning. most have gone home for rest after a long day yesterday. we'll get organized to search again. virtually every grid has been searched at least one time. several have been searched as many as three times. we'll continue the effort to find the folks we can and search and rescue throughout the majority of the day. at the end of today we'll look and at some point we'll enter recovery mode.

>> you still believe there could be people buried alive under the rubble.

>> there could be. we are searching areas of high concentrations of folks where we think we could have the best luck of finding people. we'll do that throughout the day.

>> you could be facing more bad weather today. two responders were struck by lightning on monday. you have had heavy rain. how do you prepare for that?

>> take it as it comes. this is not the first storm we have been through. we have been here before . you just take one day at a time. we'll recover and we will rebuild.

>> mayor, the people of joplin , they are neighbors who love their neighbors. everyone hases been affected. what do you say to help them cope with the loss they have faced?

>> i guess just take one day at a time. i was fortunate. i didn't have any family memberses or damage to my property. our hearts go out to the folks who have lost family members. the support of the community, not only our city proper but the surrounding communitieses that have come to help and the folks here to help. we have people who will take in complete strangers and help shelter them. that's the type of community this is. we're glad people do and we'll do anything we can to help them.

>> finally, for those folks around the country looking at joplin , wanting to help, what can they do?

>> well, the best thing to do is support your volunteer agencies. here in missouri the governor's emergency management office has a place for people to support the volunteer agencies. give generously. again, there will be a lot of needs here. financial assistance is the best way through the organizationses.

>> i know how business su