Storm emergency not over: Obama

US President Barack Obama (R) stands with US
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (L)
© AFP Toby Jorrin


WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama said Sunday the Hurricane Irene recovery effort could go on for days or weeks, but hailed the disaster response operation as an “exemplary” display of good government.

The president, who took pains to show Americans he was in charge of the emergency effort, amid memories of the botched response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, also remembered the 14 people killed in the storm.

“I want people to understand that this is not over. Response and recovery efforts will be an ongoing operation,” Obama said in a short statement in the White House Rose Garden.

“I do want to underscore that the impacts of this storm will be felt for some time. And the recovery effort will last for weeks or longer. Power may be out for days in some areas,” Obama said.

The president returned early from his vacation on Friday to deal with the Hurricane Irene response and led top homeland security officials in a massive federal and local operation on Sunday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who’ve lost loved ones. And those whose lives have been affected by the storm,” Obama said.

“You need to know that America will be with you in your hour of need. While the storm has weakened as it moves north, it remains a dangerous storm that continues to produce heavy rains.”

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Obama, flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate, said he remained concerned by significant flooding and widespread power outages.

He also paid tribute to the work of homeland security officials and emergency workers who he said had saved lives and property in recent days.

Obama also made a veiled political point, as he wages a daily battle with Republicans over the reach and size of government, an argument which will underpin the 2012 presidential election campaign.

“This has been an exemplary effort of how good government at every level should be responsive to people’s needs, work to keep them safe and protect and promote the nation’s prosperity,” Obama said.

“I want to thank scientists who provide the information necessary for governors and mayors to make sound decisions, disaster response experts who made sure we were as prepared as possible, to national guard members and first responders who risked their lives to ensure their fellow citizens’ safety — all ordinary Americans who love their country and volunteer to do their part.”

Katrina has been a constant subtext to Hurricane Irene and officials in Washington well remember the heavy political price then president George W. Bush paid for the chaotic federal and local response to that monster storm.

Obama could have ill afforded a similar disaster, as he is enduring one of the most testing passages of his presidency and has seen his approval ratings drop to around 40 percent as the economic recovery stumbles.

The eye of Irene, downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm but still packing 65-mile-an-hour (105-kilometer-an-hour) winds and driving rain — passed over New York on Sunday as millions lost power along the coast.

© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license

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