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West Mayor “Pissed Off” At FEMA Denial

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West Plant Explosion (credit: Getty Images)

West Plant Explosion (credit: Getty Images)

 WEST (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is refusing to provide money to help rebuild the Texas town of West, where a deadly fertilizer plant explosion leveled numerous structures and killed 15 people. FEMA explained their decision in a letter addressed to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, though West Mayor Tommy Muska strongly disagrees.

According to a letter obtained by The Associated Press, FEMA said it reviewed the state’s appeal to help West but decided that the explosion “is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.” FEMA has, however, provided emergency funds to individual residents.

According to FEMA, a major disaster declaration “can be a result of hurricanes, earthquakes, flood, tornadoes or major fires…The event must be clearly more than state or local governments can handle alone.”

Mayor Muska said the rural community of 2,800 people needed the money to repair roads, the damaged sewer system and a school. He said the estimated cost of those repairs is $57 million, including $40 million to rebuild a school that was destroyed when the West Fertilizer Co. blew up in April.

“I’m pissed off. I don’t know what they expect a disaster to look like,” said Muska to KRLD. “But I can show them in my backyard what a disaster looks like. And it looks like a place you’d see in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Muska says the city doesn’t have the resources to borrow money and insists that there must be some public assistance for the town to fully rebuild.

“The federal government pretty much let us down, I guess — for the lack of a better word. They don’t really care about West, Texas anymore. We’re third page news.”

FEMA did not immediately return a call seeking comment. FEMA’s letter, dated June 10, is addressed to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and signed by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.

Gov. Perry’s spokesman Josh Havens released the following statement:

“This explosion has impacted everyone in West in some way, and we are very disappointed that the Administration is denying the people of West this important assistance.  Moving forward, we will continue working with the city, our state emergency management team and our FEMA regional partners in Denton to determine the appropriate next steps and if there is any additional information that can be provided to FEMA that will get this community the assistance they need, qualify for, and deserve.” 

The blast killed 10 first responders and brought national attention to the agricultural community. President Barack Obama traveled to the area to attend a memorial service for the first responders and others who died trying to help.

Nearly 800 people have sought FEMA assistance. FEMA says the agency, the state and the Small Business Administration have approved more than $6.5 million in grants and loans since the April 17 blast in West.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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