"The death toll is expected to rise. It's total devastation," Jay Nixon, Governor of Missouri told CNN.
Nixon, who declared a state of emergency said, "We are responding aggressively, quickly. We want to make sure as the night goes on that we're saving lives between now and dawn".
"The particular area that the tornado went through is just like the central portion of the city, and it's very dense in terms of population," Joplin Emergency Management Director, Keith Stammer told the television channel.
The deadly tornado struck the town of Joplin near the border with Oklahoma and Kansas on Sunday, May 22 less than a month after a horrific tornado outbreak left 354 dead across seven US states.
Phone communications in and out of the city of about 50,000 people about 160 miles south of Kansas City were largely cut off, Wall Street Journal reported.
A tornado near Reading, roughly 100 miles southwest of Kansas City, destroyed at least 20 homes and knocked out power and water service, Kansas authorities said.
The National Weather Service estimates that 600 tornadoes swept across the US in April, surpassing the previous monthly record of 542 tornadoes set in May 2003.