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Oklahoma tornado: President Barack Obama visits Moore, vows unwavering support

May 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Barack Obama vowed unwavering support for the city of Moore, Oklahoma during his first visit there since the devastating tornado struck on May 20. Twenty-four people perished in the tornado, including 10 children.

The president arrived in Moore Sunday for a firsthand look at recovery from the monstrous EF5 tornado. He visited families affected by the storm and shook hands with first responders, thanking them for their quick action and concern.

During his visit, President Obama also met with federal and state officials at the side of the tornado damage to give an update on recovery efforts and survey the damage.

He said that nearly 1,200 homes were completely damaged and 12,000 were affected. Early damage estimates calculated the losses at about $2 billion.

As the entire community tries to come to terms with the tragedy, the president addressed the tornado victims and reminded them that "we're going to be with you all the way." He urged the American public to help the tornado ravaged suburb.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking to reporters accompanying the presidential party on Air Force One, said President Obama wanted to make the trip to offer condolences and reiterate his and the nation's commitment to rebuild.

"This is the greatest nation on Earth, and we're going to dedicate this nation's time, attention, resources and expertise to help our people in their time of urgent crisis," the spokesman said.

Earnest touted the federal contributions so far, including Obama's signing of a disaster declaration within hours of the storm to speed aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Earnest said that 450 FEMA personnel were working on the ground in Oklahoma and have delivered 43,000 meals, 150,000 liters of water and thousands of cots, blankets and tarps. He said 4,200 people have applied for disaster assistance, and $3.4 million in payments have been approved.

The mayor of Moore says he will propose an ordinance to require all new homes to have storm shelters.

Amid the devastation, the town's three high schools held back to back graduations Saturday at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

Students from Westmoore, Southmoore and Moore High Schools all received their diplomas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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