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Obama tells New Jersey: "We are here for you"

Chris Christie, Barack Obama
President Barack Obama, accompanied by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie meets with local residents at the Brigantine Beach Community Center in Brigantine, NJ., Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today flew over the Jersey Shore to assess the devastation that Superstorm Sandy left in its wake, stopping at a community center to reassure the storm's victims that state and federal officials are working together to help the state recover.

"We are here for you," Mr. Obama told residents during a news conference following their tour. "We will follow up to make sure you get the help you need until you rebuild."

Mr. Obama praised Christie's response to the storm, noting that he has been "aggressive in making sure the state got out in front of this storm. I think the people of New Jersey recognize he's put his heart and soul in making sure the people of New Jersey bounce back."

He also thanked the state's congressional delegation, noting that they helped ensure that funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and thanked the first responders who put their neighbors' needs ahead of their own.

"Our hearts go out to those families who have lost loved ones," Mr. Obama said. At least eight people in New Jersey died because of the storm. The president noted that while relatively few lives were lost, the people who lost loved ones have had their worlds "torn apart."

The president said the government is taking an "all hands on deck" approach in its response to Sandy, with over 2,000 FEMA personnel on the ground right now.

"They are going out and talking to individual communities so people know how they can get the help that they need," he said. He noted that affected residents can immediately apply for assistance in acquiring basic supplies or necessities like rental housing.

"Obviously, our biggest priority right now is getting power back on," the president continued. He said he spoke to CEOs of utility companies yesterday from across the country who have pledged to send crews and equipment to the affected area as quickly as possible.

On Marine One, President Obama and Governor Christie survey the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along New Jersey coast, Oct. 31, 2012.
On Marine One, President Obama and Governor Christie survey the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along New Jersey coast, Oct. 31, 2012. The White House

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    Christie praised the president's response to the storm, saying "he has sprung into action immediately."

    "It's been a great working relationship to make sure we're doing the jobs people elected us to do," he added. "I cannot thank the president enough for his passion and concern. I was able to witness it today personally."

    Christie said he and the president spoke "at length" about getting power restored to New Jersey residents, making sure people have clean drinking water, getting schools reopened and other priorities.

    Earlier, at a stop at the Brigantine Beach Community Center in Brigantine, N.J., Mr. Obama reiterated his assurance to residents that Christie is "working overtime."

    "The entire country has been watching what's been happening," he said. "Everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit."

    The community center, in a small community northeast of Atlantic City, has served as a shelter for local residents affected by Sandy. At the storm's peak, 200 people were sleeping in the center's gym. Currently, about 50 people are staying overnight there, with many others coming throughout the day to eat, charge their electronics and take hot showers.

    The two leaders spoke with residents at the community center and stopped to greet the cooks. "The people have been cooking for 18 hours straight," Mr. Obama remarked.

    At the news conference today, Mr. Obama said, "When you see neighbors helping neighbors then you're reminded what America's all about. We look out for one another and we don't leave anybody behind."

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