JOPLIN, Mo. - As emergency workers in Joplin searched Thursday for more than 230 people listed as missing after a tornado tore through the city, one was sitting on a wooden chair outside the wreckage of her home, cuddling her cat.
Sally Adams, 75, said neighbors rescued her Sunday after the storm destroyed her house and took her to a friend's home. When told that she was on the missing list, Adams laughed and said: "Get me off of there!"
Missouri officials had said they believed many of the missing were alive and safe but simply hadn't been in touch with friends and family, in part because cellphone service has been spotty.
The AP found that was the case with at least a dozen of the 232 still unaccounted for Thursday. They included two survivors staying at a hotel, six that a relative said were staying with friends, and one that a former employee said had been moved from his nursing home.
Stephen Whitehead, of the Red Cross' Safe and Well registry, which keeps track of the accounted-for, said that since the missing list came out earlier Thursday, he had learned that at least nine were people who were dead. Whitehead said he did not know whether those nine were among the known fatalities.
Adams said she lost her cellphone in the storm and had no way of contacting her family to let them know she was OK. She was placed on the missing list after relatives called a hotline and posted Facebook messages saying she was missing.
The AP found Mike and Betty Salzer at a hotel being used by visiting journalists. "Well, for heaven's sakes," Betty Salzer, 74, said when a reporter showed her that she was on the missing list.
The couple have been staying at the hotel since their home was destroyed Sunday. Betty Salzer said their names might have come from a Facebook message her daughter posted before they reached her Monday morning.
Not all of the stories of the missing will end so well.
Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr announced Thursday that the death toll had risen to 126. Some of those families were waiting Thursday for the remains to be released. One victim's funeral was scheduled for Friday morning in Galena, Kan., and other services were scheduled for the weekend.
Identification of the deceased has been slow because officials have taken extra precautions since a woman misidentified one victim as her son in the chaotic hours after the tornado hit, Newton County coroner Mark Bridges said. "That's the reason why we didn't release anybody else until we at least had dental records," he said.
A federal forensics team of 50 to 75 disaster mortuary specialists has been at work in six refrigerated trucks, collecting DNA samples for testing, taking fingerprints, and looking for tattoos, body piercings, moles, and other distinctive marks. Bridges expected as many as 19 bodies would be released Thursday.
He said he had been explaining the reason for the delays to grieving families "all day long."
"It breaks my heart," he said.