Obama visits storm-hit Alabama, calls damage heartbreaking

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama tours tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Friday, April 29, 2011. () AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Barack Obama, Alabama
President Barack Obama stands with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, left, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and others, as they toured tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Friday, April 29, 2011.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak


President Obama today flew to Alabama to tour areas affected by the devastating outbreak of tornadoes that have killed at least 297 people in six states.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Alabama
First lady Michelle Obama hugs at right as she and President Barack Obama visit with residents at a rally point at Holt Elementary School in Holt, Ala.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
The president and First Lady Michelle Obama were greeted at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Alabama First Lady Diane Bentley, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox, Mrs. Stephanie Maddox, Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Sen. Richard Shelby, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Rep. Spencer Bachus, Rep. Terry Sewell and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate.

Mr. and Mrs. Obama traveled via motorcade through commercial and retail areas throughout the Tuscaloosa area. Then, they took a walking tour of hard-hit residential areas, where homes have been reduced to piles of debris.

"I've never seen devastation like this. It is heartbreaking," Mr. Obama said. After a walk through the Alberta neighborhood of Tuscaloosa, Mr. Obama said he spoke to survivors who lost everything but their lives. He said the nation has an obligation now to help these communities recover.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Alabama
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama tour tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama signed an emergency declaration for Alabama, authorizing FEMA to deploy equipment and resources to respond to the emergency in all 67 counties in the state. The president Thursday spoke with Fugate and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and told them to be aggressive in their recovery efforts.

How to help tornado victims in the South

"We can't control when or where a terrible storm may strike, but we can control how we respond," Mr. Obama said yesterday in public remarks. "The federal government will do everything we can to help you recover, and we will stand with you to help you rebuild."

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