A massive tornado ripped its way across the southwest Missouri city of Joplin Sunday, killing at least 89 people, with authorities warning that the toll could rise as rescuers continue their search, according to reports.

It's total devastation, Gov. Jay Nixon said on Sunday, according to the Associated Press, as he dispatched the National Guard and emergency rescue teams.

We are responding aggressively, quickly. We want to make sure as the night goes on that we're saving lives between now and dawn, Nixon told CNN. There are a number of injuries. It's going to be a long night and a difficult recovery.

According to U.S. weather officials, the tornado may have been the single deadliest in the country since 1953, the Baltimore Sun wrote.

The tornado blew the roof off one hospital, ripped parts of another roof off a high school and left nearly 2,000 other homes and buildings in a giant heap.

The Sun also reported Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges saying that a number of bodies were found along the city's restaurant row.

The loss of life is incredible, said Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston, Reuters reported. We're still trying to find people. The outlook is pretty bleak.

A temporary morgue was set up at the Missouri Southern State University; a local concert hall is serving as a shelter for people, now, with nowhere to return.

Joplin City Councilwoman Melodee Colbert-Kean, who serves as vice mayor, said the town was in a state of chaos.

It is just utter devastation anywhere you look to the south and the east -- businesses, apartment complexes, houses, cars, trees, schools, you name it, it is leveled, leveled, she told Reuters by telephone early on Monday.

President Obama said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was responding.