[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 28, 1998]
[Page 304]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 304]]

Remarks on Disaster Assistance in Los Angeles, California
February 28, 1998

    Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to begin by thanking 
Congressman Gallegly, Congresswoman 
Millender-McDonald, Congressman 
Sherman, and Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky for 
joining me here.
    I have just met with some of the people who were hurt by the 
terrible weather you've had in southern California over the last week, 
as well as a number of the people who were involved in the rescue 
effort. Let me begin by saying that our hearts and prayers are with the 
families who lost their loved ones. I especially want to send our 
condolences to the families of Officer Rick Stovall and Officer Brit Irvine who gave 
their lives in the line of service as they responded to the emergency in 
Santa Maria.
    There were many people of all ages who lost their lives in this 
terrible tragedy. I received a fax from a friend of mine yesterday whose 
son lost a childhood friend of his, a young fellow student. I met a 
young woman in there in the meeting who lost her fiance after he had 
saved the lives of a woman and her three young children.
    There is very little that anyone can say at this moment to ease the 
human loss. We do know that the weather we are experiencing now has been 
dramatically aggravated because of El Nino. I have visited with families 
in Florida where 39 people were killed in the worst tornadoes in 50 
years, in northern California, and now here today.
    The Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent a lot of time in 
southern California in the last 5 years and couple of months since I've 
been President. I talked with James Lee Witt 
in some detail before I came down here today. We are determined to do 
all we can. FEMA is responding swiftly to provide disaster relief funds 
in 35 counties, including over $2 million more for Glenn County. The SBA 
has an outreach office in Orange County, and Federal Highway 
Administration personnel have already released $40 million to California 
for road repairs.
    There will be a lot more to be done. The Members of Congress and the 
local officials have talked to me about other things that we need to do 
to deal with the particular problems of people who lost everything or 
who are still at risk of further natural calamities.
    Let me just say today, I want more than anything else to praise the 
courage of those who worked so hard during this disaster--the fire, the 
police personnel, the emergency personnel, all the others who were 
involved; many of them risked their lives, and as we know, two lost 
their lives--and to praise the courage of the people who have lost 
everything they have but still have their lives. I want to encourage 
them, to tell them their fellow Americans are thinking about them, and 
to pray for tranquil weather as we begin the rebuilding process.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 6:05 p.m. on the tarmac at Los Angeles 
International Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Gloria Molina and 
Zev Yaroslavsky, members, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors; and 
California Highway Patrol officers Rick Stovall and Brit Irvine.