UPDATE: Personal transportation proves difficult in Joplin after tornado

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | 11:23 a.m. CDT

JOPLIN — Joplin residents trying to rebuild their lives after losing everything in last week's devastating tornado are finding a lack of transportation to be one of the difficult obstacles they face.

City officials estimate the tornado damaged or destroyed 18,000 vehicles. About 9,000 insurance claims for vehicles already have been filed, The Springfield News-Leader reported Wednesday.

Some residents are using rental cars paid for by insurance and others have borrowed cars from friends or relatives. Some residents are taking advantage of the city's trolley system, which has been expanded and is free of charge during the disaster, City Manager Mark Rohr said.

Towing companies, meanwhile, have been working almost nonstop. James Cain of Corner's Wrecker said his company towed about 160 vehicles last week, compared to about 55 in a normal week.

"There's no lying about it, we're here to make a living," he said. "But I try to give as much as I can."

He said he's tried to help people, towing about 40 cars for free for customers who had no insurance or whose insurance didn't cover the cost. He's also sent trucks to help with recovery efforts.

"I know in my heart that I'm doing right by people," he said.

Cain charges $45 to tow cars within the city and more for places farther away.

But Attorney General Chris Koster's office is investigating complaints about some towing companies charging extremely high prices and others towing cars without permission and charging the owners to release them, spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said. She urged anyone who believes they have been charged too much for towing to contact the attorney general's office.

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