U.S. President Barack Obama is planning a Sunday visit to Moore, Oklahoma, the city decimated by a powerful tornado that killed at least 24 people and flattened a wide swath of the community.
President Obama plans to meet with survivors of Monday's storm, as well as first responders who rescued as many as 100 children and adults buried in the rubble.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano traveled Wednesday to Moore to assess recovery efforts. The tornado left crumpled homes littered with the everyday possessions of their owners, debris she said the government is helping to remove.
"I think the big need now is debris removal, and we will be working with Oklahoma on supporting, expediting debris removal that will open up roads and streets," she said. "And then individual homeowners will be worked with so we can get that debris out of there."
Napolitano's department includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has teams helping with search and recovery operations, damage assessments and federal aid to people affected by the tornado.
The storm hit the central U.S. city with what weather officials say were winds of at least 322 kilometers per hour.
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The town's fire chief says emergency workers will not stop searching for survivors and plan to go through the rubble of each building at least three times.
Obama declared the suburb of the state capital, Oklahoma City, a major disaster area, and said the people of Moore are not standing alone as they recover and rebuild.
Secretary Napolitano is also traveling to Joplin, Missouri, for a ceremony marking the second anniversary of a tornado there that killed 161 people. The May 22, 2011 tornado was the deadliest in the United States in six decades.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.
A man stands among the wreckage in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013
Storm chaser Brad Mack records the tornado in Oklahoma.
The storm system that generated an F-4 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma is pictured in this May 20, 2013 NASA photo.
John Warner surveys the damage near a friend's mobile home in the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park, destroyed in a tornado, near Shawnee, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
A fire burns in the Tower Plaza Addition following a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
Moore police dig through the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows homes flattened outside Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
A tornado moves past homes in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
Seven-year-old Katrina Ash holds a doll as she waits in the back of a truck with her grandfather, Michael Bowen, after a tornado ripped through their neighborhood near Dale, Oklahoma, May 19, 2013.