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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 4, 1999


My heart goes out to the people of Oklahoma and Kansas who suffered through a night of terror and devastation. Some of the most powerful tornadoes ever recorded tore through these states last night, killing dozens of people, leveling whole neighborhoods, and leaving more than a thousand families homeless.

In the coming hours, I will declare several counties in both states federal disaster areas, speeding the way for federal aid. James Lee Witt, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is now on his way to the region to assess the damage and to assure the people of Oklahoma and Kansas that the federal government will provide whatever support is necessary to help them begin putting their communities back together.

Right now, our top priority is to make sure people are safe, that everyone is accounted for, and that initial clean-up can begin. Local and state officials, fire and police, emergency services and National Guard personnel worked through the night and are doing an outstanding job of helping people through these most difficult hours. The thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with the victims of this tragedy.