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Obama visits tornado-ravaged U.S. state of Oklahoma, vows to support recovery


08:23, May 27, 2013

HOUSTON, May 26 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday called on Americans to help rebuild the tornado-ravaged Oklahoma City area during a visit to places worst hit by the deadly twister on Monday afternoon.

The president caught a glimpse of the damage from the air before Air Force One landed in Oklahoma on Sunday. He began touring some of the hardest-hit areas and meeting with officials and residents in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Sunday afternoon, according to local media reports.

The tornado, classified as an EF-5 or the strongest storm on Earth with 200 mph-plus winds, killed 24 people and injured 377 others. As many as 12,000 homes were damaged. Official statistics estimated the damage caused by the tornado at 2 billion U.S. dollars.

Speaking in front of the wreckage of the Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died in the tornado, Obama urged Americans to help the storm relief and reconstruction efforts.

"It's going to take a long time for this community to rebuild, so I want to urge every American to step up," said the president, asking the public to donate via the American Red Cross website.

"This area has known more than its share of heartbreak, but the people pride themselves on the 'Oklahoma standard,'" Obama said. " Oklahomans have inspired us with their love and their courage and their fellowship."

And he vowed that the nation would help. "This is a strong community with strong character," he said. "There's no doubt they' re gonna bounce back. But, they need help, as anyone would need help."

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said on Sunday that the state needs quick action from the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA) to help Moore, a town of some 41,000 people.

Obama has offered prayers for the people of Oklahoma from the White House in recent days. He also said: "While the road ahead will be long, their country will be with them every single step of the way."

The White House said that FEMA has already provided 57 million U.S. dollars in rebates and incentives to help build about 12,000 storm shelters in Oklahoma, according to earlier reports.

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