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From the White House:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

May 23, 2011

Statement by the President on the Tornado in Missouri and the Severe Storms Across the Midwest

Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the tornadoes and severe weather that struck Joplin, Missouri as well as communities across the Midwest today.  We commend the heroic efforts by those who have responded and who are working to help their friends and neighbors at this very difficult time. At my direction, FEMA is working with the affected areas’ state and local officials to support response and recovery efforts, and the federal government stands ready to help our fellow Americans as needed.

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2011. The President and Gov. Nixon discussed the deadly tornado that touched down in Joplin, Mo., Sunday night. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) release:


FEMA Administrator, Deputy Administrator Heading to Joplin, Missouri; Tornado Survivors in Joplin Can Now Apply for Federal Disaster Assistance

WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its federal partners are working closely with state and local officials in Missouri and the other states impacted by the deadly tornadoes and severe storms that struck the Midwest on Saturday and Sunday.  At the direction of President Obama, FEMA this morning added the two Missouri counties impacted by tornadoes, Jasper and Newton, to an ongoing disaster declaration the state received for recent storms, which means that tornado survivors in those counties can now apply for disaster assistance with FEMA.

FEMA has already deployed staff on the ground in Missouri to help state officials with coordination and other needs as they continue their response. Earlier this morning, President Obama and Secretary Napolitano both called Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to express that all of the families of Joplin affected by the severe tornadoes are in their thoughts and prayers and reiterate this administration’s commitment to assisting the state and Missouri residents.

At the President’s request, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will travel to Missouri to ensure that the state has all the support it needs, and today FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino will also travel to Joplin to tour the damages and meet with state and local officials. More details on Fugate’s trip will be released later today.

“What happened over the weekend in Missouri, Minnesota and Kansas, is simply heartbreaking, and all of us are thinking of and praying for the families and communities devastated by these deadly storms,” said Administrator Fugate.  “As President Obama and Secretary Napolitano told Governor Nixon over the past day, the entire federal family is ready to support the impacted states in any way needed. We thank the first responders, volunteers and good Samaritans who have been working heroically, around the clock, to save lives and conduct search and rescue efforts. We urge all survivors of these storms in Jasper and Newton counties to contact FEMA about applying for federal disaster aid by visiting http://www.disasterassistance.gov or m.fema.gov.”

This morning, FEMA added Jasper and Newton counties to a pre-existing disaster declaration Missouri had received for recent storms, which was the quickest way to approve disaster aid for individuals and communities. Specifically, the counties were approved for individual assistance to help survivors repair or replace damaged properties and other personal losses, and public assistance to help with debris removal and other emergency response needs.  Individuals in these counties can apply for aid three ways: by calling FEMA at (800) 621-3362 / TTY (800) 462-7585; online at http://www.disasterassistance.gov; or directly on their mobile phones at m.fema.gov.

Since the tornadoes struck, FEMA, through its regional offices in offices in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois, has been in constant contact and coordination with officials in Missouri, Minnesota and Kansas.  At the request of the state, FEMA has already deployed staff to Missouri’s emergency operations center to help with coordination needs, and deployed special teams to support the state as response efforts continue.

Specifically, last night FEMA deployed a Mobile Emergency Response Team to Missouri to provide self-sustaining telecommunications, logistics and operations support. In anticipation of requests from the state, FEMA has also sent an Incident Management Assistance Team to Joplin to coordinate with state and local officials; this team is currently en route.

Also last night, FEMA activated the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate hospital medical needs and patient evacuations with the state of Missouri, if needed.  HHS has the lead federal role in supporting the state for public health and medical services needs during disasters.

Last week, as part of the federal government’s National Level Exercise 2011, which simulated a catastrophic earthquake hitting Missouri and other states in the central U.S., Administrator Fugate spent time in Missouri with state and local officials, including Governor Nixon. Missouri was one of several states that participated in the exercise, along with federal agencies, the private sector and other organizations….

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