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April 29th, 2011
05:41 PM ET

Obama visits Alabama as South reels in tornado aftermath

Tuscaloosa, Alabama (CNN) - President Barack Obama toured rubble-strewn Tuscaloosa, Arizona, neighborhoods on Friday, declaring the devastation brought by a series of powerful storms and tornadoes was beyond anything he had ever seen.

The storms killed at least 316 people in six Southern states and left entire neighborhoods in ruins. Obama promised expedited federal aid to states affected by the tornadoes.

"We're going to do everything we can to help these communities rebuild," he said.

Obama's motorcade passed street after street of homes reduced to splinters, crushed and flipped cars, and widespread debris on the way to his first stop to visit with families affected by the storms that pounded the region Wednesday and Thursday.

"I've gotta say I've never seen devastation like this," he told reporters.

The president's visit took place as emergency responders in Alabama and five other states continued to assess the damage wreaked by one of the worst outbreaks of violent weather in the southeastern United States in decades, experts said. The storms leveled neighborhoods, rendered major roads impassable and left at least 800,000 customers without power Friday afternoon.

Alabama suffered the greatest of loss of life, with fatalities in 19 counties confirmed by the state Emergency Management Agency. The agency reported Friday afternoon that the state's death toll had risen to at least 228 after the confirmation of 18 additional deaths in Marion County. That brought the total number of fatalities in that county to 21.

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