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Cabinet Members Tour Smithville to View Damage

By Sandra Knispel | Published 02 May 2011 03:40pm | comments
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks to media after touring Smithville, Miss. to assess the damage caused by Wednesday's tornado that killed 14 residents and destroyed roughly 150 houses.

We’re here to help and we’ll stay until you’ve recovered. That in a nutshell was the main message when members of President Obama’s cabinet came to Smithville to assess the damage wreaked by the deadly tornado on Wednesday. MPB’s Sandra Knispel has more on the cabinet members’ visit to the small town in northeast Mississippi yesterday.

“Let me just say on behalf of president Obama that we will stand by and assist the state of Mississippi and the people of Smithville any way we can.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano minced no words after touring tornado-torn Smithville yesterday afternoon.

"This is not a quick comeback or an immediate one but it will be, in my view, a complete one when all is said and done," Napolitano said.

She urged affected residents to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency at once. Craig Fugate who heads up FEMA was also on the ground.

“Well, people say ‘how bad is it?’ And I’m like ‘when the Piggly Wiggly is not open it’s real bad folks.’ I’ve been in a lot of disasters, but when you lose your grocery store and your town looks like this it don’t get much worse. This is going to be a tough recovery but you’re survivors that’s why we’re here. And we want to help you recover and build your community back," Fugate said.

With two-thirds of Smithville destroyed the cabinet members were astonished that actually few residents ended up in public shelters. Shaun Donovan is the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“The way that this community has come together to take folks in and make sure in a time of greatest need folks have housing – that is a spectacular example of the way this community can come together and support everybody that is a survivor of this terrible tragedy,” Donovan said.

Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tried to reassure residents.

"We will stop any foreclosure actions or prevent any kind of foreclosure actions in terms of non-payment. There’s an opportunity there for an extended period of time for folks to be given the opportunity to get back on their feet," Vilsack explained.

In the background, meanwhile the cleanup was well under way in this town where some 150 houses, all businesses, the schools and two churches were destroyed and 14 residents died in Wednesday’s EF-5 twister. A thousand volunteers came this weekend to help. Sandra Knispel MPB News, Smithville.

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Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks to media after touring Smithville, Miss. to assess the damage caused by Wednesday's tornado that killed 14 residents and destroyed roughly 150 houses.


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