Disasters & Accidents

Biden reviews tornado damage in Mississippi, vows gov’t assistance

Washington, Mar 31 (EFE).- US President Joe Biden got a first-hand look Friday at the devastation wrought by an outbreak of tornadoes in Mississippi, pledging that the federal government will assist people in rebuilding their lives.

“I know this is your community. This is where you built your lives. And we’re going to make sure you can stay right here,” the president said in a residential neighborhood in the small west Mississippi town of Rolling Fork.

Speaking in front of the rubble of what had been an auto parts store and an animal shelter, he promised the federal government will cover 100 percent of the rebuilding costs over the next 30 days to expedite the clean-up effort and help the most affected communities recover as soon as possible.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also will open centers in the hardest-hit Mississippi counties to ensure residents are provided with the assistance they need, Biden said.

A series of tornadoes – roughly 10, according to meteorologists – battered the states of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee last week, killing 26 people (25 in Mississippi and one in Alabama) and injured dozens more.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden saw first-hand the devastation caused by a massive tornado in Rolling Fork, a town of 1,900 inhabitants where, according to 2020 census data, 73 percent of the residents are African-American and 37 percent are below the poverty line.

The tornado destroyed some 300 businesses and homes in Rolling Fork, toppled the town’s water tower and left local residents’ furniture, toys and books scattered amid the wreckage.

“People are still going through the rubble, seeing if they can find that picture of grandmom or that wedding ring that was on the bureau, or that special memento that meant so much to them. They get lost, too,” said Biden, who was visibly moved by the devastation.

“Some of this .. destruction that you’re seeing here is going to take years to recover and rebuild, but we’re starting now.”

Biden met at a local school Friday with some Rolling Fork residents, saying on his way out of the building that he has observed the same pattern at different tornado-hit disaster zones.

“And the thing that … always amazes me, in all the tornadoes I’ve been to of late, is that you have one house standing and one house, from here to the wall, totally destroyed. It’s but for the grace of God,” the president said.

Biden’s visit comes as several US midwestern states are bracing for a severe storm that, according to the National Weather Service, may pack powerful winds and even tornadoes.

Also Friday, a powerful tornado struck Little Rock, the capital of the state of Arkansas.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said on Twitter Friday evening that 24 people are known to have been hospitalized at local medical centers.

“We are not aware of any fatalities in Little Rock at this time. Property damage is extensive and we are still responding,” he added. EFE


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