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Obama monitors response to Joplin, Missouri tornado from abroad

Barack Obama, Joplin tornado
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2011. The President and Gov. Nixon discussed the deadly tornado that touched down in Joplin, Mo., Sunday night. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama was in Ireland Monday, kicking off a week-long tour through Europe, but he is monitoring the aftermath of the Missouri, tornado that killed at least 89 people Sunday.

The president received multiple updates on the tornado damage throughout the course of his flight to Ireland, a White House official told reporters. He instructed his staff to keep him updated and to stay closely coordinated with state and local officials going forward.

Mr. Obama called Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon this morning "to personally extend his condolences and to express that all of the families of Joplin affected by the severe tornadoes are in his thoughts and prayers," according to White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro. "The president assured the governor that FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] will remain in close contact and coordination with state and local officials."

The president has directed FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to travel to Missouri to ensure the state has the support it needs. In addition, in anticipation of requests for assistance, a FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) is en route to Joplin, the White House said. This team will work with FEMA officials already in Missouri, as well as state and local officials, to identify disaster response needs.

Emergency personnel walk through a neighborhood severely damaged by a tornado
Emergency personnel walk through a neighborhood severely damaged by a tornado near the Joplin Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., Sunday, May 22, 2011. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Mr. Obama released a statement on Monday morning addressing the tornado and the severe storms across the Midwest:

"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the tornadoes and severe weather that struck Joplin, Missouri as well as communities across the Midwest today. We commend the heroic efforts by those who have responded and who are working to help their friends and neighbors at this very difficult time. At my direction, FEMA is working with the affected areas' state and local officials to support response and recovery efforts, and the federal government stands ready to help our fellow Americans as needed."

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