Members of the Newton County, Mo. Rescue and Recovery team...

Members of the Newton County, Mo. Rescue and Recovery team clear debris from a pond next to an apartment complex so they can search for potential victims in Joplin. (May 25, 2011) Credit: AP

The death toll from the massive tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., reached 132 Friday, a city spokeswoman said, while the state worked to pare down the list of people missing and unaccounted for since the storm.

Joplin city spokeswoman Lynn Onstot confirmed the new death toll to The Associated Press shortly before state officials announced that the missing list had been trimmed to 156 people.

Officials were working 24 hours a day to trim the list that stood at 232 a day earlier, Missouri Department of Public Safety deputy director Andrea Spillars told a morning news conference.

Spillars says at least 90 people on the original list had been located alive. But at least six were identified as among the dead, and some new names had been added to the list.

Authorities 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 cell phone service has been spotty. But they also had cautioned that they believed many on the list may have been killed in the storm.

Sunday's savage storm was the nation's deadliest single tornado in more than 60 years. More than 900 people were injured.

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. 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.

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