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*President Obama offered prayers Tuesday for the people of Oklahoma, and said the nation will stand with them as they recover from a devastating tornado that claimed at least 24 lives.


“In an instant, neighborhoods were destroyed, dozens of people lost their live,” Obama said this morning from the White House.


“In some cases there will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed, but you will not travel that path alone. Your country will travel with you,” Obama continued.


“We are a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes,” Obama said.


The president noted that Oklahomans would “get everything that it needs right away” to help with tornado recovery. He recognized individuals who worked to protect others during the massive storm, which killed at least 24 people and destroyed a hospital and an elementary school.


“Our gratitude is with the teachers who gave their all to shield their children,” Obama said.

The president has spoken by phone to Oklahoma lawmakers, pledging federal assistance as damaged areas rebuild.


“The president praised the brave first responders, and made clear that the country would stand behind the people of Oklahoma as they continued to respond and recover,” said a White House readout of phone calls with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole.


On Monday night, Obama signed a disaster declaration for Oklahoma, clearing the way for federal aid. The White House said he received updates on the tragedy throughout the evening.


Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been dispatched to Oklahoma to coordinate the federal government’s response to the tragedy, the White House said. The federal response includes survivor assistance, damage assessment, and search and rescue teams.

The readout added that Obama told Fallin that “the people of Oklahoma are in his and the first lady’s thoughts and prayers and, while his team will continue to keep him updated, he urged her to be in touch directly if there were additional resources the administration could provide.”


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