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Obama to visit tornado hit Joplin, Missouri as death toll stands at 139

Officials say that a further 100 people are still missing as Obama swaps European diplomacy for a role as “healer-in-chief” for the devastated city.

One man raises the American flag as he helps clean up the devastation.
One man raises the American flag as he helps clean up the devastation.
Image: Charlie Riedel/AP/Press Association Images

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama is pivoting from diplomacy on the world stage to the intimate and delicate domestic task of acting as healer-in-chief to a devastated community.

The president travels to tornado-wrecked city of Joplin in Missouri today, a day after returning from a six-day European tour of Ireland, England, France and Poland.

After days of focusing on the US relationship with the rest of the world, he’ll turn to an even more critical connection: his own, with the American people.

The president will visit with survivors and family members of the worst tornado in decades, a monster storm that tore through Joplin week ago.

City officials have now raised the death toll to at least 139 and state officials say 100 people are still missing.

The president will tour destroyed neighborhoods in the city of 50,000 in southwestern Missouri, and speak at a memorial service being held by local clergy and Governor Jay Nixon for those who lost their lives. He’ll offer federal assistance, and his own condolences.

It’s a role Obama has had to assume with increasing frequency of late, after the mass shooting in Arizona in January in which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was injured, when tornadoes struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama, last month and more recently when flooding from the Mississippi inundated parts of Memphis, Tennessee.

Such moments can help define a president, but habitually even-tempered Obama is more apt to offer handshakes and hugs than tears and deep emotion.

- AP

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