U.S. President George Bush is touring damage from killer tornadoes in America's Midwest and Southeast. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the violent weather killed at least 20 people.

The president's helicopter flew over the path of the deadly storm in the state of Alabama, where eight teenagers were killed Thursday in the collapse of a high school in the town of Enterprise.

Meeting with state and local officials in Enterprise, President Bush called on Americans to help those affected.

"Some people are going to need your help," he said. "There have been some poor citizens who may or may not qualify for federal help, who are going to need the help of our fellow citizens. And, I would ask you, out of the generosity of your heart, to help the folks down here. This storm was a tough storm."

The storm killed two other people in Alabama, nine in the neighboring state of Georgia, and a young girl in Missouri.

Fourteen teams of experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are evaluating the damage to assess what federal assistance might be needed in situations that overwhelm state and local capabilities.

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 along the Gulf Coast.

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 that was never part of the discussion.

Traveling with the president, FEMA Director David Paulson stressed how much the response system has changed since Hurricane Katrina, telling reporters that federal officials no longer wait for state and local governments to be overwhelmed before stepping in.

Paulson says FEMA quickly supplied food, water, ice, plastic sheeting and communications equipment to help state officials care for people whose homes were damaged.