Trump pays respects to 23 killed in Alabama tornado
The dead included four children and a couple in their 80s, with 10 victims belonging to a single extended family.
Donald Trump has paid respects to the 23 people killed when a powerful tornado roared through a rural Alabama town.
The president observed a moment of silence before white wooden crosses which stood in remembrance of each victim.
Mr Trump and his wife, Melania, held hands as they paused in front of each of the markers erected near a church serving as a makeshift disaster relief centre for survivors of Sunday’s twister.
Earlier, the president stood on a hill overlooking a field full of debris and surveyed mangled trees and other wreckage.
Mr Trump flew to a military base on the Georgia-Alabama border and boarded a helicopter that provided him with an aerial tour of the region before he arrived in Beauregard, which bore the brunt of the storm.
“We saw things that you wouldn’t believe,” Mr Trump said after visiting a section of town where tornado winds tore houses from their foundations and uprooted trees.
A local official briefed Mr Trump and the first lady as they stood outside a trailer belonging to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is assisting state and local response efforts.
He met victims along the street, hearing their stories and dispensing hugs in some cases. He met privately with survivors and family members, including a woman mourning the loss of 10 relatives. “What they’ve been through is incredible,” Mr Trump said after he emerged from the meeting.
At the relief centre at Providence Baptist Church, Mr Trump thanked law enforcement officials and other first responders, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversees the FEMA.
“We couldn’t get here fast enough,” Mr Trump said following the private church meeting.
“I wanted to come the day it happened,” he said, adding that Governor Kay Ivey had asked him to wait.
Before leaving the church, Mr Trump posed for a photograph with a fifth-grader who has been volunteering there and signed the child’s Bible, said Ada Ingram, a local volunteer.
Chats of “USA!” broke out as Mr Trump prepared to depart the church. He visited the nearby crosses before heading for Air Force One.
The pastor, Rusty Sowell, said the president’s visit was uplifting and will help bring attention to a community that will need a long time to recover.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Mr Sowell said.
The Alabama dead included four children and a couple in their 80s, with 10 victims belonging to a single extended family. Several people in Georgia were injured by twisters that also extended to Florida and South Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.
Alabama is politically friendly territory to Mr Trump, whose response to natural disasters at times has seemed to be influenced by the level of political support he has received from the affected areas.
Alabama supported Mr Trump by a wide margin in the 2016 presidential election, and he carried about 60% of the vote in Lee County, where Beauregard is located. Blue Trump flags flying outside homes are a frequent sight in the town.
In the months after wildfires scorched California, a Democrat-led state that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, Mr Trump threatened to cut off federal aid unless the state embraced forest management policies he championed.