US President Barack Obama has described last week's devastating tornado in the city of Joplin, Missouri, where 142 people are now known to have died, as a “national tragedy”.
Visiting the city yesterday, Mr Obama said the disaster required a national response.
The tornado was one of the most destructive in US history, with winds of 200mph, and carved a swathe of destruction through the city, injuring more than 900 people.
The numbers looked increasingly bleak for families hoping for the best. Authorities raised the death toll to at least 139 and said 100 people were still missing.
If the death toll stands at 139, it would place this year's tornado deat toll at 520 and make 2011 the deadliest year since 1950.
Until now, the highest recorded death toll by the National Weather Service in a single year was 519 in 1953. There were deadlier storms before 1950, but those counts were based on estimates and not on precise figures.