U.S. President Barack Obama has toured a tornado-ravaged town in the south-central state of Oklahoma, offering comfort and long-term federal aid for survivors of last week's storm that killed 24 people.
Speaking beside the ruins of an elementary school in the town of Moore on Sunday, Obama said it is "hard to comprehend" the damage from the unusual EF-5 tornado, the strongest category on the U.S. tornado scale. Ten of those killed were children, including seven students who were in that school when the storm hit.
The tornado also injured 377 people and destroyed 1,200 homes, a second elementary school and a hospital. The damage is estimated to be around $2 billion.
Flanked by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and other officials, Obama urged people to donate to the American Red Cross to help the town recover. He also promised that residents who suffered significant damage will receive assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
He also met with tornado survivors and visited a fire station that served as a command center for emergency workers, whom he praised for saving many lives.
Obama has visited several scenes of tragedy in the United States in the past year, offering support to Boston after last month's bomb attack on the city's annual marathon, to a Connecticut town hit by a shooting rampage in December, and to New Jersey coastal residents affected by Superstorm Sandy last October.
In his Sunday remarks, the president urged Congress to maintain funding for programs that provide training and equipment to emergency services, saying those resources help to save lives and cannot be "shortchanged."