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Obama visits area devastated by deadly tornados


Washington: President Barack Obama was taken aback Friday when he saw the destruction caused by a series of tornados in the southern US, where according to the latest official reports at least 300 people have died.

“I’ve never seen devastation like this,” Obama said during his visit to Alabama, the hardest hit of the six states blasted by the most deadly tornado outbreak in more than three decades.

From Tuesday to Thursday there were 163 tornados in the area covering parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia and Arkansas.

Storms and tornados wiped out entire neighbourhoods and knocked out power to more than a million homes and businesses.

In a brief statement to the media, Obama said that everything possible will be done to aid rebuilding.

After arriving in Alabama, where he planned to meet with the heads of emergency management teams and state authorities, Obama visited some of the most damaged areas in the university city of Tuscaloosa, where tornados took the lives of almost 40 people.

“We’re going to make sure that you’re not forgotten and that we do everything we can to make sure that we rebuild,” the president said after seeing how entire residential streets had been destroyed, with trees uprooted, roofs blown off of houses and walls torn down by the passing tornados.

On a sunny day in vivid contrast to the storms earlier in the week and accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, the president observed a number of homes marked with a cross, a sign that they had been inspected and bodies had been found inside.

“They’re alongside God at this point,” he said of the dead.

Together with Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox and Alabama Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, the Obamas greeted three groups of residents of the Alberta neighborhood.

The president later cited Maddox as saying to him: “You know, what’s amazing is when something like this happens, folks forget all their petty differences; you know, politics, differences of religion or race – all that fades away when we are confronted with the awesome power of nature.”

During his visit the president also met with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.

Thursday night he declared Alabama a disaster zone, which will enable the state to receive federal funds for reconstruction work.

Authorities say that up to now storms have caused 213 deaths in Alabama, 34 in Tennessee, 32 in Mississippi, 15 in Georgia, five in Virginia and one in Arkansas.