By Elliott Blackburn
JOPLIN, Mo (Reuters) - The list of people still missing from the Joplin tornado has been narrowed to 232 names, officials said on Thursday, responding to criticism they have been slow to offer families information on loved ones.
"We have and we will provide today a list of 232 individuals that we have actual reports that ... they were missing and unaccounted for," Andrea Spillars, Deputy Director of the Missouri Department of Public safety, told a news conference.
For two days after the massive tornado on Sunday, officials provided a figure of some 1,500 people missing. They abruptly stopped giving out a figure on Wednesday.
There has been rising frustration in Joplin that four days after the storm some families still could not find out what happened to their loved ones or get access to morgues to identify victims.
Responding to the criticism, Spillars said that 60 officials worked around the clock over the last 24 hours to reconcile the list.
"On that list there are individuals that we are working directly with their family members to identify and notify their loved ones that ... are deceased," Spillars said.
"There are also individuals on that list that we have not accounted for, so we're asking for your help and the public's help to account for those individuals," she said.
Officials said the goal was to get the list to zero but this involved a painstaking process of checking to avoid mistakes.
The official death toll from the tornado remained at 125 on Thursday, with more than 900 injured, according to government officials in Joplin.
The city of 50,000 people has been traumatized by the tornado and officials are still struggling to get city services back to normal. Traffic in the city has been at a standstill at times as residents share the streets with volunteers, media and emergency personnel trying to move around.
Thousands of customers were still without power, although many of those were homes completely destroyed by the tornado. Water pressure in the city is low and cable and cell phone service has not yet been completely restored.
(Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Jerry Norton)