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Bush to Tour Tornado-Damaged States

U.S. President George Bush says federal officials are helping states cope with the aftermath of violent storms that left at least 20 people dead across America's Midwest and Southeast. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says he will travel Saturday to the states of Georgia and Alabama to inspect the damage.

"I go down with a heavy heart," he said. "I go down knowing full well that I will be seeing people whose lives were turned upside down by the tornadoes. I will do my very best to comfort them."

Eight teenagers died when their Alabama high school collapsed. More than 50 people were injured.

Nine people are reported dead in Georgia following a tornado from the same storm system, which also claimed the life of a young girl in Missouri.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's regional coordination center in Atlanta is helping to assess the damage. That agency and President Bush were widely criticized for their poor response to Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005, which killed more than 1,800 people.

Asked if the president's decision to visit the tornado-stricken areas Saturday was influenced by the political fall-out from Hurricane Katrina, White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino said it was not part of the discussion.

She says it was an automatic response from the president to reach out to governors from states affected by this week's storms. While estimates of the total damage are still being tallied, Perino said it is clearly extensive.