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Obama promises full federal response to Midwest storms, will visit Missouri on Sunday

May 24, 2011|By Christi Parsons
(Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

Reporting from London — President Obama on Tuesday morning expressed his sorrow about the tornado damage in Missouri, Minnesota and around the Midwest, calling the devastation "incomparable" and promising a full federal response to help in the recovery.

Obama has already dispatched federal officials to the region to survey the damage and talk with local officials, and he said he will visit Missouri personally Sunday.

"We are here for you," Obama said, addressing the survivors. "We're going to stay by you."

Photos: Tornado hits Joplin

He pledged to sustain the recovery efforts "after the news cameras leave."

Sunday's storm gouged a six-mile-long swath roughly half a mile wide through Joplin, Mo. At least 116 people died, five of them hospital patients.

The impromptu statement was the first event of a day devoted to a state visit to Britain, where Obama will visit Queen Elizabeth II and join her for lunch at Buckingham Palace.

He is slated to sit down with Prime Minister David Cameron and to lay a wreath at Westminster Abbey. Although the president has traveled to Britain more than once during his term in office, this is the first official state visit, complete with a formal state dinner in the evening.

Although the president's two-day visit is devoted to emphasizing the relationship between the United States and Britain -- "special relationship" is the officially preferred term -- an aide said the president is also asking for frequent briefings from home.

He spoke with FEMA director Craig Fugate Tuesday morning before addressing a small pool of reporters in a garden outside Winfield House, the ambassadorial residence where he is staying.

cparsons@tribune.com

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