WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama is directing his emergency management team to give tornado victims in the central state of Oklahoma everything they need. The president spoke to reporters Tuesday about the response to the deadly twisters.
Obama promised an urgent government response to people in the city of Moore, Oklahoma, where dozens were killed, and parts of the town simply disappeared.
The president called it “one of the most destructive tornadoes in history.” The full extent of the damage is not known, but he acknowledged that a big job lies ahead.
“There are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, there are parents to console, first responders to comfort, and, of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention,” he said.
Obama spoke after meeting with his disaster response team, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other top White House officials.
He said the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is on his way to Oklahoma to assess the damage and manage the government’s response.
The president said he had spoken with the governor of Oklahoma and the mayor of Moore, and assured them that the federal government would give them the resources they need to recover.
Obama had declared a major emergency in Oklahoma on Monday. In his brief White House remarks, the president told people in Oklahoma that the entire nation is supporting them as they recover and rebuild.
“But you will not travel that path alone," he said. "Your country will travel it with you, fueled by our faith in the Almighty and our faith in one another. So our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today, and we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.”
Obama suggested that those who want to help the victims should donate to the American Red Cross. A series of tornadoes blasted through Oklahoma Sunday and Monday. The weather service estimated that the one which devastated Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, was at least 800 meters wide.
Two elementary schools were leveled, and emergency personnel say some neighborhoods are no longer recognizable. This was the fourth tornado to hit Moore since 1998.