Obama offers help for Oklahoma tornado victims
President Barack Obama says he is instructing his disaster response team to get tornado victims in Oklahoma everything they need "right away."
Obama calls the devastation that tore through the Oklahoma City suburbs "one of the most destructive tornados in history," even though he said the extent of the damage is still unknown.
Obama spoke Tuesday after an Oval Office briefing on the latest developments from his disaster response team and as Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate was heading to Oklahoma.
Obama has declared a major disaster in Oklahoma, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
The president offered prayers and said there's a long road of recovery ahead. But he said the victims won't travel alone and will have the resources they need.
The death toll was revised down to 24 Tuesday after initial estimates ranged from 51 to 91. Those numbers came from officials. Among the dead are nine children.
Hospital officials say they've treated more than 200 patients, including dozens of children, since a tornado ripped through suburban Oklahoma City.
About 20 patients remained at one hospital Tuesday, but it wasn't clear how many patients remained hospitalized at another facility.
Spokeswoman Brooke Cayot says Integris Southwest Medical Center has seen 90 patients, including five children who have been released. About 20 people remain hospitalized there.
OU Medical Center spokesman Scott Coppenbarger says 85 people, including 50 children, came to his hospital and an affiliated children's hospital for treatment. He does not know how many have been released.
St. Anthony Hospital spokeswoman Sandra Payne says her hospital and two regional facilities have seen 35 patients, including 14 children. Thirty-two patients have been released. Three children were transferred elsewhere
Meantime, conservative Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn says that any additional federal aid to help tornado victims and to rebuild devastated areas of his state should be financed with cuts to other programs in the government's $3.6 trillion budget.
Spokesman John Hart says it's a position Coburn has consistently held regarding federal spending on disasters dating to the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.
But federal disaster aid such as $60 billion passed earlier this year to rebuild coastal states including New York and New Jersey from Superstorm Sandy typically is approved as "emergency" spending that is simply added to the budget deficit. That may happen again if more aid is need for Oklahoma.
Federal disaster aid coffers remain flush from the infusion of Sandy aid.
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