Tuscaloosa's mayor Maddox held a press conference at 10 a.m. Saturday to give an update on the recovery and relief efforts in his town. He opened up his talk by thanking the thousands of volunteers who have provided food, water, first aid and most importantly, comfort, to the multitudes of people affected by the storms.
"Although we have been ravaged beyond comprehension, we still remain that shining city on a hill because the world has seen our faith in God and each other," he said."Our hearts may be broken but I can truly say all is well with our souls."
The mayor then went on to report that there are 39 confirmed fatalities in the city of Tuscaloosa, more than 1,000 people are injured and the number of missing people has risen to 570. Maddox said he expects the number of missing people to lower as relatives are able to get back in touch with loved ones and reunite. He also said that shelters are taking information from the people who come through in an effort to reunite them with their families. There is now a page on the city's official website, www.Tuscaloosa.com, for people to report missing persons. Click on the "seek and find" tab or visit http://seekandfind.ua.edu/ to file a missing persons report. A phone number has also been set up to help reunite missing people. Call (205) 248-4616 to report a missing or lost person.
Efforts to locate missing people continue, Maddox said. The search and rescue teams have mapped out the area and have the list of 570 missing people plus their last known locations to ensure they track down every single one. Five teams of cadaver dogs are still going through the rubble, searching for those who are missing.
Maddox said so far a total of 5,713 structures were damaged in the tornado. The most recent map of the tornado's path showed that the areas where it directly touched down had the potential to impact 5,000 people. The nearby area to where the tornado touched down had the potential to impact 15,000 people.
A curfew will be extended through Saturday and Sunday from 8 p.m. until 6 p.m. The mayor said Friday night two people were caught defying the curfew and were subsequently arrested.
The water situation also continues to improve in the city, but Tuscaloosa will continue to be under a boil water advisory until 10 p.m. Saturday. Garbage service will also begin on Monday on a limited basis on non-affected areas but could start and stop. Information will continue to be updated about the garbage collection services, Maddox said.
FEMA will begin to take over the care for those who are homeless and the city is working together with the federal agency to provide locations for disaster recovery sites as well as temporary housing. Anyone whose home or property was damaged in the storm is encouraged to register with FEMA by calling 1-800-621-3362.
The mayor also gave out a phone number for people to call if they'd like to volunteer: 205-248-5045. He said that volunteers have already given out more than 3,000 meals and 3,000 cases of water and once again thanked everyone for "such an outpouring of generosity." He also cited the newly created Tuscaloosa Relief Fund as a way for people to give donate to the community. The fund has a phone number: 205-758-7588 and a website for donations will be coming soon.
Maddox mentioned that there is a "desperate need" for individuals who speak Spanish and would be able to help translate for the Hispanic people who have suffered from the tornadoes and need help. Anyone who can assist with Spanish translation is encouraged to call 205-248-5045.
The mayor ended the conference with words of encouragement for his citizens and all who want to help Tuscaloosa recover from the storms.
"This is an enormous task, but I woke up this morning with a renewed sense of optimism that each day we will grow closer to becoming a city that is shining again," Maddox said.
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