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Saturday 18 January 2020

Obama praises tornado rescuers

US president Barack Obama has spoken of his "gratitude" to rescuers who raced to help some of the thousands of people caught up in a deadly storm he described as "one of the most destructive tornadoes in history".

He was speaking as the death toll was revised to 24, including seven children, after the huge tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore in the US Midwest, destroying scores of homes and a primary school.

Speaking at the White House, President Obama said: "In an instant neighbourhoods were destroyed, dozens of people lost their lives, many more were injured and among the victims were young children trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew - their school.

"Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today. Our gratitude is with the teachers who gave their all to shield the children, with the neighbours, the first responders and emergency personnel who raced to help as soon as the tornado passed, and with all of those who, as darkness fell, searched for survivors through the night."

His words followed that of the Queen who earlier said she was "deeply saddened" by the loss of life and devastation caused by the tornado.

President Obama added: "As a nation our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead.

"The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, for as long as it takes for their homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, parents to console, first responders to comfort and of course frightened children who will need our continued love and attention."

The death count from the disaster was previously thought to be as many as 90, but the state medical examiner's office revised this as it was thought that some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm. Rescue teams are continuing to search the rubble after the deadly tornado hit on Monday afternoon, local time.

In a message of condolence to President Obama, the Queen said: "I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of life and devastation caused by yesterday's tornado in Oklahoma.

"Prince Philip joins me in offering our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families at this difficult time. Our deepest sympathies go out to all those whose lives have been affected, as well as the American people."

PA Media

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