MOORE, OKLA. (AP/CBSDFW.COM) — President Barack Obama says tornado-ravaged Moore, Okla., is “a strong community with strong character” but needs help.

Obama visited the area Sunday, consoling people staggered by the loss of life and property and promising that the government will be behind them “every step of the way.”

The monstrous tornado barreled through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday afternoon, demolishing an elementary school and reducing homes to piles of rubble. State authorities say two infants and eight children were among the 24 people who perished in the twister.

The president referred to himself as “just a messenger,” reminding the people of the Oklahoma City suburb that “folks are behind you” across America. He offered moral and monetary support in the wake of the monstrous EF5 tornado that killed 24 people, including 10 children, last Monday afternoon. Thousands of homes were either destroyed or damaged.

Standing with Gov. Mary Fallin and other state and federal officials, Obama noted a substantial rebuilding job ahead and said that “our hearts go out to you.”

Obama later met privately with victims’ families at a fire station that has turned into a command center with dozens of first responders sitting at folding tables where fire trucks are normally parked.

The White House says the Federal Emergency Management Agency has already provided $57 million in rebates and incentives to help build about 12,000 storm shelters in Oklahoma.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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