President Obama declared an emergency in Alabama late Wednesday after tornadoes and severe storms ripped through parts of the state.

The Associated Press reported Thursday morning that 128 people had been killed by the storms in Alabama, with the deal toll across the South standing at 178.

The emergency declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency "to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."

The White House also released a statement from the president:

Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives because of the tornadoes that have swept through Alabama and the southeastern United States. Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by this devastation, and we commend the heroic efforts of those who have been working tirelessly to respond to this disaster. I just spoke to Governor Bentley and told him that I have ordered the Federal Government to move quickly in our response and informed him that I approved his request for emergency Federal assistance, including search and rescue assets. While we may not know the extent of the damage for days, we will continue to monitor these severe storms across the country and stand ready to continue to help the people of Alabama and all citizens affected by these storms.

—This post was initially published at 12:00 a.m.