WILMINGTON, Del. — In a Saturday afternoon press conference, President Joe Biden pledged federal support for the states devastated by severe weather.
The storms tore through at least five states, killing at least 30 people with a total death toll feared to be much higher. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said upwards of 70 may have died when a twister touched down for more than 200 miles in his state but the number of deaths could exceed 100 across 10 or more counties.
Biden said he has approved an emergency declaration requested hours before by Beshear, and "stands ready" to do the same for governors of other impacted states. According to the White House, the action allows the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
"Whatever is needed, the federal government is going to supply it," Biden said.
Biden said he has also called the governors of Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee, and has spoken to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He said Beshear told him Kentucky "looks like a warzone, but worse."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it has already sent response teams to affected areas and is still assessing damage.
"We are focused on ensuring first responders have the personnel & tools needed for ongoing search & rescue efforts," wrote FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell on Twitter.
Asked by a reporter, Biden said he intends to visit affected areas at some point but doesn't want to get in the way of rescue and recovery efforts.
At the state level, Beshear has announced the creation of a tornado relief fund for the western part of the state. He called on people to donate blood, which has been running in short supply during the pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.