FEMA announces extra aid for Texas town decimated by blast

CNN
Saturday, August 3, 2013 - 9:37am

 The Obama administration has issued a disaster declaration for the Texas town hit by fertilizer plant blasts in April.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Friday aid for the area affected by the tragedy in the town of West.

Federal funding will supplement state and local recovery efforts "for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the explosion in McLennan County," FEMA said.

The April 17 fire led to simultaneous blasts at a fertilizer distribution facility, killing 15 and decimating homes, businesses and more within 37 blocks.

This decision came after FEMA in June told Gov. Rick Perry it was denying a request to declare the small town a "major disaster" area, a move sharply criticized by local and state officials.

The letter from FEMA spokesman Craig Fugate noted Obama had previously issued an emergency declaration and other measures that paved the way for some direct federal assistance.

"Based on our review of all of the information available, it has been determined that the remaining costs for permanent work is within the capabilities of the state and affected local governments," Fugate said at the time. "Accordingly, we have determined that a major disaster declaration is not necessary."

After the Friday announcement, Perry, who slammed the FEMA move two months ago, lauded a successful state appeal of the initial federal move.

"The approval of the state's appeal for a major disaster declaration is great and welcome news for the people of West," Perry said. "I appreciate everyone who joined me in standing with the people whose lives have been forever impacted to move this appeal forward, especially our congressional delegation."

Perry said the federal action and the state legislature's disaster relief funding "will help this community rebuild their infrastructure, school district and public works as quickly as possible."

A fire at the facility operated by West Fertilizer Company set off two explosions that registered on seismographs as a magnitude-2.1 earthquake and were felt 50 miles away. The blasts leveled a portion of the town, damaging numerous homes, a nursing home and the town's high school and middle school.

According to local officials, the city is still well short of the $17 million it needs to repair roads, water and sewage lines and other damaged infrastructure. 

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