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Obama to visit tornado-struck Oklahoma town as feds pledge aid

May 22, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • Eric Lowery looks at tornado-ravaged vehicles while retrieving items from his mother's car at a destroyed strip mall. Cleanup continues two days after a huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.
Eric Lowery looks at tornado-ravaged vehicles while retrieving items… (Charlie Riedel / Associated…)

With the president scheduled to visit Moore, Okla., over the weekend, officials of the Obama administration on Wednesday again pledged to help the city recover from the damage of Monday’s tornado no matter how long the process takes.

At a joint news conference with Gov. Mary Fallin, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the administration will continue to work with local officials to clear debris from the storm and to help with the recovery. The tornado killed at least 24 people, 10 of whom were children. Two of the children were infants younger than a year old.

“Recovery is underway, debris removal is underway,” Napolitano said at the televised news conference. “On behalf of President Obama we will be here to stay. You have our commitment to that.”

Obama is scheduled to visit Moore on Sunday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced at his televised briefing.

The president has already pledged his help, telephoning top officials privately and speaking publicly to the nation. The president has said the nation will stand with the Oklahoma city, hit by a tornado carrying winds of more than 200 miles per hour.

The tornado has been classified as an EF-5, the top step on the Enhanced Fujita scale.

Officials are still wading through the debris of the city, searching for survivors. But the operation has shifted from rescue to recovery, officials said Wednesday.

As many as 13,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, according to Mayor Glenn Lewis. That is up from the 10,000 homes earlier estimated.

Costs of rebuilding have varied, but the latest from the state puts the tab at more than $2 billion, making this week’s storm the most expensive in state history. In 1999, a tornado killed 46 and caused more than $1 billion of damage in the area.

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