Alabama tornado disaster as bad as Katrina, 9/11

Gov. Robert Bentley said the federal government has declared Alabama a category one natural disaster, a ranking as high as was given to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and the terrorism on 9/11.

Bentley spoke to reporters Sunday afternoon in Guntersville after touring damage. Bentley praised the local responders, state officials, and the federal government for the work they are doing.

"They have done an astounding job," Bentley said.

Bentley particularly praised FEMA and other federal agencies for quickly responding to the disaster. He said the federal government has declared the state a Category 1 Natural Disaster, a declaration he says matches the ones given after Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"Everything i have asked FEMA to do, they have done," Bentley said.

Bentley said he is asking the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the cost associated with the recovery efforts.

"In order for government not to put a burden on the state, they will have to say they will pay for 100 percent," Bentley said. "I've got a call into the president. He understands we need 100 percent on that."

Bentley said he went to church Sunday morning at two places in north Alabama, one of which the building was completely gone and the congregation setup chairs on a concrete slab. Bentley said he visited with people who are hurting.

Bentley said 19 counties in Alabama are reporting fatalities, which currently total 250 statewide. He said another 1,700 are injured and an unknown number of others are still missing. He said it was important for him to visit as many places in the state as possible.

"All people in Alabama are important, not just Tuscaloosa and Birmingham," he said. "This is a catastrophic natural disaster," Bentley said. "We're going to get through this."

Bentley said he has signed an agreement with FEMA that will allow resource centers to be opened in the state. He said six are open so far.

Bentley also acknowledged the frustration of people in north Alabama who are still without power. The TVA has said service to some areas could take up to another week to be restored as the utility repairs damage to its large transmission lines.

"People get upset after four or five days without power, but things are going as well as they can possibly go," Bentley said.

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