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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Oklahoma Disaster

Aired May 9, 2003 - 14:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm watching for the governor here. He's going to start talking now, Mike. I'm not going to try to squeeze another one in. Let's go to Oklahoma, and Governor Brad Henry.
GOV. BRAD HENRY, OKLAHOMA: Good afternoon.

We have had an adventuresome morning and early afternoon to say the least. We started out with a full-scale aerial survey of the storm damage from last night. We flew the entire swathe or path of the tornado damage, and it's very significant. We've also engaged in a ground tour, and walked through some of the neighborhoods here in the Moore area, just outside the command center. And it's absolutely devastating.

You know, this stuff looks bad. The damage looks bad when you see it on television. But when you see it up close and personal, it is really horrific. I mean, it's amazing to me that we didn't lose lives.

But we are so thankful that there were no fatalities. The most amazing thing to me as we walk through the damaged areas here in Moore was the fact that the people are upbeat. And almost to a person that we met, they said, you know, it doesn't matter, it's just a home, it's just material goods, it's just personal things; we are just thankful that our family is safe. And that's the thing that we have to focus on. Oklahomans are strong. Oklahomans are resilient. We have resolve. And we will, as we've done in the past, rebuild.

But we are most thankful for the fact that we didn't lose any lives last night. We have, as of this morning, I officially declared a state of emergency in Cleveland and Oklahoma counties. We have sent a request to President Bush, asking for an expedited federal declaration of emergency. And I know that Congressman Cole is going to talk to you a little bit more about that.

Congressman Cole and I visited it last night. We have both visited with FEMA officials. FEMA will have a full team on the ground, I believe, some time today. They will be assessing the damage also.

Congressman Cole is certainly one of the keys to federal assistance. And I am so pleased that he called me last night to offer his assistance and to let me know that he had already contacted the White House, that he had already contacted Mike Brown at FEMA, and told them this was his hometown and they better not drop the ball. And I think that's an exact quote. So I very much appreciate Congressman Cole's efforts.

People everywhere I go are asking, what can we do? We want to do something. Let me first say this. The emergency management personnel, the law enforcement officials from city, county and state levels, have done an incredible job. They -- their efforts have been so coordinated. The response last night was phenomenal. They were in the field, had command centers set up almost before this storm had blown out of the metro area.

They then, within an hour and a half, had swept the path of the storm areas, at least twice, looking for people who needed assistance, people who were injured. They've saved lives.

And I cannot say enough about the emergency management personnel, the law enforcement officials, city, county and state levels that have made this response go so smoothly and so efficiently.

But people are asking wherever I go, what can we do to help? One of the things that people can do is participate in a food drive that will be conducted tomorrow. Actually the United States Postal Service, our letter carriers are conducting the food drive. They will be picking up any food that you leave on your front porch tomorrow, and they have guaranteed us that that food will stay here in the metro area for victims and survivors of this disaster. It will stay here.

So I urge all Oklahomans to leave some food, put it in a sack, make sure you label it for the letter carriers for the food drive. Also there are those who are wanting to know who they can call to get assistance. As soon as we get the official word from FEMA, which should be soon, we will publish a 1-800 number where anybody can call for assistance with property damage or other kinds of financial assistance.

In the meantime...

O'BRIEN: We have been listening to the governor of Oklahoma, Brad Henry. And as soon as that 800 number becomes available, we'll, of course, bring it to you, because there are a lot of people out there who would like to help out those who are stricken by these killer tornadoes over this past week. We'll continue to monitor Governor Henry. If there's anything more we need to tell you about it, we will bring it to you as soon as we get it in.

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