WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama pledged urgent government help for Oklahoma Tuesday in the wake of “one of the most destructive” storms in the nation’s history.
“In an instant, neighborhoods were destroyed, dozens of people lost their lives, many more were injured,” Obama said from the White House State Dining Room. “Among the victims were young children trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew — their school.”
The president added that the town of Moore, Okla., “needs to get
everything it needs right away.”
The White House said it had no announcement yet of a presidential trip to Oklahoma, only that Obama wants to make sure any travel he makes to the disaster area doesn’t interfere with recovery efforts. Presidential spokesman Jay Carney said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would be in the state this Wednesday to make sure state officials are getting the federal assistance they need.
Obama spoke on the disaster following a meeting with his disaster response team, including Napolitano and top White House officials. On Monday, he spoke with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican Rep. Tom Cole, whose home is in the heavily damaged town of Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City.
The president has also declared a major disaster in Oklahoma, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate was due in Oklahoma later Tuesday to ensure that federal resources are being properly deployed.
Carney said FEMA has enough funds at this time to pay for recovery efforts but did not rule out an additional request for money from Congress in the future.
The state medical examiner’s office on Tuesday revised the death toll from the tornado to 24 people, including seven children. Authorities initially said more died.