President Obama on Monday pledged federal assistance to the victims of a deadly tornado that ripped through Arkansas, killing at least 17 people on Sunday.


Speaking at a press conference in the Philippines, Obama offered his “deepest condolences” and hailed the “heroic efforts” of first responders who rushed into the aftermath of the storm.

The president said FEMA was on the ground and would work with local officials as the search for survivors continued. He said the storm had “damaged or destroyed homes and businesses and communities across multiple states.”

"I want everyone affected by this tragedy know that FEMA and the federal government is on the ground and will help our fellow Americans in need, working with state and local officials, and I want everybody to know that your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild as long as it takes,” Obama said.

The White House said later Monday that FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate would travel to Arkansas "to ensure the appropriate federal resources are being brought to bear to support the state and local efforts."

The tornado appears to have wiped out entire neighborhoods in an area northwest of Little Rock, destroying houses and hurling cars through the air.

"An entire neighborhood of 50 or so homes has been destroyed. Many homes are completely gone except the foundation. ... There is more devastation like this in other parts of Arkansas," Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) told Reuters.

Obama called Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) on Monday for an update on the damage and to ask if the federal government could provide any additional resources to help the communities impacted.

"The president expressed his condolences for those families who lost a loved one and his concern for the individuals still missing," the White House said in a statement.

— This report was updated at 11:30 a.m.