WASHINGTON, May 21, 2013 – The American people will stand with their fellow citizens in Oklahoma, President Barack Obama said today from the White House.
At least 24 people were killed by a tornado that struck Moore, Okla., yesterday, nine of them children who sheltered in an elementary school.
“As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue, and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead,” the president said.
Federal, state and local resources have been mobilized to help those in need. The president has issued a disaster declaration to expedite resources to support the immediate response, “and to offer direct assistance to folks who have suffered loss,” he said.
The president said he met with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco to underscore the point that Oklahoma needs to get everything that it needs right away. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate is on his way to Oklahoma to speed and coordinate federal relief. FEMA deployed to Oklahoma’s Emergency Operations Center on May 19, as the state already was facing down the first wave of deadly tornadoes.
“FEMA activated urban search and rescue teams from Texas, Nebraska and Tennessee to assist in the ongoing search and rescue efforts, and a mobile response unit to boost communications and logistical support,” Obama said.
“The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them as long as it takes,” the president said. “For there are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, there are parents to console, first responders to comfort, and, of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention.”
Americans will help their neighbors in Oklahoma, the president said, because in times of crisis, Americans pull together. “We’ve seen that spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa. We saw that spirit in Boston and Breezy Point,” he said. “And that’s what the people of Oklahoma are going to need from us right now.”
The president prepared the nation for a long adverse weather season. Tornadoes threaten four states today, and next week is the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, he noted.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin activated the National Guard yesterday, and as of this morning, nearly 250 Guard soldiers and airmen were assisting with security and the search for victims.