DETROIT (WWJ/AP) — President Barack Obama pledged urgent government help for Oklahoma Tuesday in the wake of “one of the most destructive” storms in the nation’s history.
“In an instant, neighborhoods were destroyed, dozens of people lost their lives, many more were injured,” Obama said, speaking to the nation on Tuesday from the White House State Dining Room. “Among the victims were young children trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew — their school.”
The president added that the town of Moore, Okla., “needs to get everything it needs right away.”
At least one local company will be playing a big role in helping in the aftermath of the tornado.
Sheldon Yellon with Belfor Property Restoration in Birmingham said he’s sending a crew of about 20 or so to join the hundreds already on site.
He’s been talking with officials in Oklahoma about what’s needed.
“We’ve already been contacted by some schools and hospitals to began working on those sites immediately,” Yellon told WWJ Newsradio 950.
“Obviously the first priority is search and rescue — which is going on as we speak,” Yellon said. “Additionally we are involved in helping to secure properties, with boarding up and fencing off areas.”
“We’re also involved in helping to disperse necessities … food, clothing and water,” he said, adding that they’re happy and honored to be able to help.
In the past, Belfor crews have helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Superstorm Sandy along the east coast.
At least 24 people were killed in Monday’s storm, including at least nine children, and those numbers were expected to climb.
The state medical examiner’s office cut the estimated death toll by more than half but warned that the number was likely to climb again. Gov. Mary Fallin said authorities did not know how many people were still missing, but vowed to account for every resident.
“We will rebuild, and we will regain our strength,” said Fallin, who went on a flyover of the area and described it as “hard to look at.”
Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, said she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm that struck Monday afternoon. Downed communication lines and problems sharing information with officers exacerbated the problem, she said.
“It was a very eventful night,” Elliott said. “I truly expect that they’ll find more today.”
Authorities initially said as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children.
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