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President Bush Declares Disaster in Florida

President Bush has declared a federal disaster in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida where a powerful storm swept through the state, killing at least 20 people.

Governor Charlie Crist, Senator Bill Nelson and the chief of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, David Paulison, Saturday toured central Florida to view the damage.

Paulison told reporters that his agency, known as FEMA, is working with state officials to find displaced people and assist storm victims.

Early Friday morning, a line of thunderstorms and at least one tornado ravaged the central part of the state. The storms ripped off roofs, smashed walls of people's homes, and overturned tractor-trailers along a highway.

Rescuers have stopped their search for survivors, and bodies in the state, and are proceeding with recovery efforts.

Many see the Florida disaster as a test for FEMA. The agency received heavy criticism for its management of the damage of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in the southern United States in 2005.

Separately, FEMA denied Florida federal assistance for damage tornadoes caused in Volusia County last December. Paulison said FEMA rejected the request because it believed Florida had the resources to manage the situation on its own. Florida has appealed that decision.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.