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Biden tours Kentucky tornado damage, urges families to "keep the faith"

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Biden tours Kentucky tornado destruction
Biden tours Kentucky tornado destruction 02:49

Washington — President Biden is in Kentucky on Wednesday to survey damage from a string of tornadoes that devastated the state and left at least 74 dead and scores more unaccounted for. While there, the president announced the federal government will cover 100 percent of the costs for the first 30 days for all emergency work completed in the affected areas in Kentucky. 

"We also need to recognize that people have suffered mental and emotional injuries," the president said as he wrapped up his day in the state. "The cost of this is sometimes unseen and unknown."

Mr. Biden began his trip with an aerial tour of Mayfield, which was devastated by a long-track tornado that began in northeast Arkansas and hit the western Kentucky community Friday night, according to the National Weather Service. 

The president also received a briefing from local leaders about the impacts of the storms, after which he toured a neighborhood in Mayfield. 

In brief remarks during his meeting with local leaders in Mayfield, Mr. Biden stressed his administration is prepared to assist Kentucky not only in the immediate aftermath of the storm, but also in the coming weeks and months. 

"There's no red tornadoes and blue tornadoes. There's no red states or blue states when this stuff starts to happen," he said. "And I think, at least in my experience, it either brings people together or really knocks them apart. And we're moving together here."

U.S. President Biden visits Kentucky
President Joe Biden speaks with a woman as he tours a neighborhood devastated by tornado damage in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 15, 2021. EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / REUTERS

Mr. Biden next surveyed the storm damage in Dawson Springs, another hard-hit community, before delivering remarks on his administration's response to the extreme weather. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said he received three personal calls from the president the day of the disaster, and said he can't thank the president enough for his support. The president spoke of the enormity of the disaster, but also, the overwhelming response from neighbors who helped neighbors. 

"To all the families here, keep the faith," Mr. Biden said in Dawson Springs. "We're gonna' get this done, I promise you, the governor's not walking away, your county judge is not walking away, your Congress is not walking away, no one is walking away. We're in this for the long haul." 

Joining Mr. Biden on the trip to Kentucky are Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

The tornadoes and severe weather that swept across at least six states late Friday left a trail of destruction in their wake and, in Kentucky, claimed the lives of at least 74 people, Beshear said. The governor, though, expects the death toll to rise, as dozens of people remain unaccounted for.

At least 13 more were killed in other states impacted by the storms, including six at an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Mr. Biden on Sunday approved a disaster declaration for Kentucky, making federal funding and resources available to the state. 

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