Obama visits Oklahoma town digging out after tornado
President Barack Obama arrived in Moore, Oklahoma, on Sunday to tour the town that was hammered last week by a powerful tornado that killed 24 people and assure its residents that the federal government would provide long-term help.
His first stop was Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died and several students and teachers were injured by the May 20 afternoon storm.
Piles of boards, brick and cinder blocks that used to be buildings and houses lined the side of the street. Rare items that survived the disaster - a television set, a pink baby carriage - stood in contrast to the wreckage.
Cars with their bodies dented and windows smashed lay under debris or twisted on their sides. Rising above the wasteland were at least three American flags that had been attached to the rubble, waving in the wind.
"The president's message is that support is not winding down," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Air Force One. "As demonstrated by our efforts in Tuscaloosa, in Joplin, and those communities in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey that were affected by Sandy, we'll be standing with the people of these resilient communities as they come back stronger than ever."
Obama has been repeatedly called on in recent months to comfort shaken U.S. communities, from a visit last month to Boston in the wake of the marathon bombings, to Newtown, Connecticut, the site of a December mass school shooting.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri, were hard-hit by tornadoes two years ago.
The Moore tornado, which rated the most powerful on the five-step scale used to measure the destructive power of twisters, ripped a 17-mile (27-km) long corridor of destruction through the suburb of Oklahoma City, flattening entire blocks of homes, two schools and a hospital in some 50 minutes on May 20.
It was the most powerful of a spate of 76 twisters that touched down in 10 states from May 18 through 20, causing an estimated $2 billion to $5 billion in insured losses, according to disaster modeling company Eqecat.
Some 377 people were injured by the Moore tornado, the deadliest such windstorm to hit the United States in two years.