, WASHINGTON, May 21 – US President Barack Obama on Tuesday bemoaned the empty spaces where homes and schools once stood as he vowed to stand with people of Oklahoma, where lives were sliced apart by a huge tornado.
Obama said that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) chief Craig Fugate was on his way to Oklahoma City, where the massive twister hit the suburb of Moore on Monday, claiming at least 24 lives.
Some of those killed were children under 12, caught in an elementary school by a murderous two-mile wide funnel of wind.
“Dozens of people lost their lives, many more were injured and among the victims were young children trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew,” Obama said at the White House.
Describing the storm as one of the “most destructive tornados in history,” Obama said that the federal government would play a major role in the rescue effort in Moore and the rebuilding program to come.
“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,” Obama said.
“There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms and bedrooms and classrooms and in time we’re going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community,” Obama said.
The US government put in force a now well drilled emergency plan even before the storm hit, which was forged in the days following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when a botched federal response had serious political consequences.
FEMA staff first went to Oklahoma’s emergency operations center on Sunday as an early wave of tornados hit and urban search teams were activated from Texas, Nebraska and Tennessee.