‘I’m here to listen’: Biden travels to Kentucky to witness tornado devastation

US

President Joe Biden has visited Kentucky to see the devastation left by the tornado that ripped through the town of Mayfield.

The recent storm that hit Midwest America has been described as “one of largest tornado outbreaks in US history”.

Eighty-eight people were killed when more than 30 tornadoes tore through Kentucky and seven other states, leaving thousands homeless and without power.

U.S. President Joe Biden surveys storm damage from the tornadoes and extreme weather as he tours a neighborhood with Kentucky's first lady Britainy Beshear, Mayfield's Mayor Kathy O'Nan and Anne Henning Byfield, Presiding Bishop of the AME Council of Bishops, in Mayfield, Kentucky, U.S., December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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President Joe Biden surveyed the damage in Mayfield, Kentucky, and spoke with locals about how he intends to help

‘I’m here to listen’

After witnessing the damage to Mayfield from a helicopter, Mr Biden spoke with local officials, saying: “I’m here to listen”.

He said the damage was some of the worst he had seen and reassured residents that federal aid would continue.

Tragedies like this one “brings people together or it knocks them apart”, he said.

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President Joe Biden listens as Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks after surveying storm damage from tornadoes and extreme weather in Dawson Springs, Ky., Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. Britainy Beshear is at right. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Kentucky governor Andy Beshear joined the president on the trip. Pic: AP

“There’s no red tornadoes and blue tornadoes,” he added.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent search-and-rescue and emergency response teams to Kentucky, along with teams to help survivors register for assistance.

FEMA has also sent dozens of generators into the state, along with 135,000 gallons of water, 74,000 meals and thousands of cots, blankets, infant toddler kits and pandemic shelter kits.

Visit ‘was a positive thing’

President Joe Biden speaks to people as he surveys storm damage from tornadoes and extreme weather in Dawson Springs, Ky., Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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President Biden went on to visit nearby Dawson Springs, which was also badly hit. Pic: AP

Michelle Anderson, 68, was sheltering from the storm in her bathtub with her cat when the tornado ripped the roof off her apartment.

She wanted to see Mr Biden and to ask how he was “going to help individuals who have been affected by this”.

Tara Wilson, a local woman helping to set up a mobile counselling site for storm victims, said the president’s visit was a “very positive thing”.

Despite the town being in a historically Republican region, Mrs Wilson and her husband, Jeff, hoped the visit would unite the community.

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Drone shows mass destruction in Mayfield

Extreme weather in US

Since Mr Biden took office, there have been a number of extreme weather events in the US.

One month into his term he declared a major disaster as Texas was hit by freezing winter storms.

Visits to Idaho, Colorado and California quickly followed due to wildfires in the summer.

President Joe Biden speaks to people as he surveys storm damage from tornadoes and extreme weather in Dawson Springs, Ky., Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Many residents were left homeless or without power following the historic storms. Pic: AP

Hurricane Ida sent Mr Biden to Louisiana as well as New Jersey and New York in September.

The disasters have provided further evidence for the president’s focus on combating climate change.

The infrastructure bill, signed into law last month, allocated billions of dollars for Mr Biden’s climate resilience projects which hope to build better defences against future storms, wildfires and other natural disasters.

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