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Obama visits Oklahoma to see tornado damage

Oklahoma governor says she appreciates president's visit, but state needs quick action from federal emergency agency.

Last Modified: 26 May 2013 17:11
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Obama travelled to Oklahoma City area to survey damage from the tornado and meet with victims [AFP]

US President Barack Obama has paid a visit to Moore, Oklahoma to survey damage from last week's tornado, which killed 24 people and damaged an estimated 12,000 homes.

The White House said on Sunday that Obama wanted a firsthand look at recovery efforts from the monstrous tornado that barrelled through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday afternoon. The president planned to visit with affected families and thank first responders in devastated Moore, a town of 41,000 residents about 16km from Oklahoma City.

The extraordinarily powerful twister that struck Moore on Monday was known as an EF5, ranking it at the top of the enhanced Fujita scale used to measure tornado strength.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said on Sunday her message to Obama is that she appreciates the visit, but the state also needs quick action from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Republican governor said so far, the agency has done a great job of speeding relief and cash assistance to affected families, but she's concerned about the long run.

"There's going to come a time when there's going to be a tremendous amount of need once we begin the debris clearing, which we already have, but really get it cleared off to where we need to start rebuilding these homes, rebuilding these businesses," she said on CBS' "Face the Nation".

"And we know at different times in the past, money hasn't come always as quickly as it should."

Keeping children safe

Obama offered prayers for Moore residents from the White House in recent days and has promised to support the rebuilding for as long as it takes.

"They have suffered mightily this week," Obama said Wednesday. "And while the road ahead will be long, their country will be with them every single step of the way."

Among the dead were ten children, including two sisters pulled by the strong winds out of their mother's grasp, an infant who died along with his mother trying to ride out the storm in a convenience store and seven students at Plaza Towers Elementary School. Many students were pulled from the rubble after the school was destroyed.

Fallin noted that some 100 other schools in Oklahoma have safe rooms for children to seek shelter in tornadoes.

"Schools that have been lost in the past, many of them have rebuilt rooms of some sort as a safe room in their school, and we're certainly going to encourage that," she said.

"Any death is very unfortunate, but it's truly incredible that we had only 24 deaths at this site, because if you look at all the debris field and how wide it is, I don't know how anybody survived this tornado," she said on CBS.

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