More bodies found in tornado aftermath

Crews smashed holes in concrete slabs and sifted through strewn home goods yesterday as rescuers focused on crumpled stores and apartment complexes in Joplin in a frantic search for survivors of the deadliest single US twister in 60 years.

One team searched through the remains of a Home Depot store, while others searched a Wal-Mart and wrecked apartments as the clock ticked down towards another round of severe stormy weather forecast to hit later in the day.

The massive tornado that ripped through the heart of the blue-collar southwest Missouri city of 50,000 people on Sunday was the deadliest on record in nearly six decades.

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Sam Murphey, a spokesman for governor Jay Nixon's office, said last night that 117 bodies had been found so far.

Rescuers discovered seven bodies under one concrete slab, officials said. Team leader Doug Westhoff said workers had searched as much of the store's interior as they could and were now focussing on what was under the concrete panels. Holes will be drilled and specialist dogs brought in to try and detect human scent.

Speaking from London, President Barack Obama said he would travel to Missouri on Sunday to meet with people whose lives have been affected by the twister. He vowed to make all federal resources available for efforts to recover and rebuild.

"The American people are by your side," he said. "We're going to stay there until every home is repaired, until every neighbourhood is rebuilt, until every business is back on its feet."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has raised the warning for severe weather in central Oklahoma, southern Kansas and north Texas.