President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning assured residents of Oklahoma that they have both the nation's support and the federal government's assistance as they reel from the aftermath of a deadly tornado.
"Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today," Obama said during remarks delivered at the White House after a giant tornado tore through Moore, Okla., on Monday, leaving a path of death and destruction. The exact death toll in Moore remained unclear Tuesday morning, but it reportedly included children.
"The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground there for them, beside them, as long as it takes for their homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, the parents to console, the first responders to comfort and of course frightened children who will need our continued love and attention," Obama said Tuesday.
The president signed a disaster declaration Monday for Oklahoma, directing federal aid to state and local recovery efforts. "Oklahoma needs to get everything it needs right away," Obama said Tuesday. He said Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was en route to Oklahoma.
Obama said FEMA staff members were deployed to the state Sunday on the first of two days of violent weather and that FEMA rescue teams from Texas, Nebraska and Tennessee were activated Monday to assist Oklahoma. The president told viewers watching his televised remarks to seek out the American Red Cross to offer assistance.
The president's remarks Tuesday followed a briefing he received earlier in the morning from his assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, chief of staff Denis McDonough, deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco and other senior members of his response team.
He also spoke Monday night with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Rep. Tom Cole "to express his concern for those who had been impacted and his deep condolences for the many who have lost loved ones as a result of the horrible tornadoes," according to a White House official. "The president praised the brave first responders, and made clear that the country would stand behind the people of Oklahoma as they continued to respond and recover."