FLINT (WWJ) – A crowd in Flint Wednesday cheered as President Barack Obama paused, cleared his throat, and asked: “Can I get some water?”

Visiting the struggling city for the first time since the lead-tainted water crisis began, the President got an update from Mayor Karen Weaver, health department, EPA officials and others on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama hugs Maryanna Copeny of Flint, Michigan, age 8, after speaking at Northwest High School about the Flint water contamination crisis on May 4, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. While in Flint, the President heard first-hand from residents about the water crisis, and received an in-person briefing on the federal efforts that are in place to help respond to the needs of the city's residents. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama hugs Maryanna Copeny of Flint, Michigan, age 8. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

After later meeting with some Flint residents — including an 8-year-old girl who had written him a letter — Obama made a public speech at the city’s Northwestern High School.

“This should not have happened in the first place,” he said, to a round of applause. “Even though the scope of the response looks sort of like the efforts we’re used to seeing after a natural disaster — that’s not what this was.

“This was a man-made disaster…this was avoidable, this was preventable,” the President said.

He assured Flint residents that federal response teams have been working around the clock to make sure their daily needs are being taken care of.

“They’ve distributed enough water to fill over three Olympic-size swimming pools, they’ve distributed thousands of filters, they’re helping students afford nutritious foods that work against the contaminants in bad water,” Obama said. “They’re making sure new moms have access to instant infant formula that doesn’t require water. They’ve expanded  health services for children and pregnant women, and education programs for Flint’s youngest children.”

Obama said that citizens across the nation care about what’s happening in Flint, imaging that it could have happened to them.

“You can’t have a democracy where people feel like they don’t count; that they’re not heard,” Obama said. “…Flint’s recovery is everyone’s responsibility. I am here to make sure that responsibility is met.”

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Obama, who drank from a glass of filtered Flint water earlier in the day, stressed that the EPA has concluded that the water is safe for everyone except children under six and pregnant women, as long as a filter is used.

MORE: Obama Visiting Flint For First Time Since Water Crisis Began

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