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FEMA Denies Assistance To West After Deadly Explosion

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WEST (CBS 11 NEWS) - The small city of West that was rocked by a powerful and deadly explosion is being jolted again: This time by FEMA.

The agency has denied Governor Rick Perry’s two requests to help re-build the city’s infrastructure and schools destroyed in the blast.

West’s Mayor Tommy Muska is fuming, “The government is hindering us more than helping us and I need this help yesterday, and I don’t need it a month from now.”

In its letter to Governor Perry, FEMA said, the impact from the event is “…Not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration…”

Click For Comprehensive Coverage of the West Fertilizer Plant Explosion

The fertilizer plant explosion two months ago killed 15 people and leveled blocks of homes, schools, and other buildings.

Mayor Muska says, “I don’t know what their definition of the word disaster is.  I know looking out my backyard what a disaster looked like.”

Muska says a major disaster declaration would help the struggling city.

He says West needs $17 million for new sewer and water lines, and that the school district needs $40 million to rebuild.

The state is offering a total of $10 million.

Muska says, “The federal government can go into Iraq and Afghanistan and build countries and cities.  All we’re looking for is three something miles of road, and if the federal government can’t help us with that, it’s a pretty sad state.”

The Mayor worries this may lead residents to move away.

Mike Kocian is re-building the house that his family has owned for nearly 100 years.

He says, “I think that’s unjust for the government to do this.”

Now, with FEMA’s ruling, he’s wondering if he should spend money on his house.  “That’s a decision we’re looking at right now. Are we throwing good after bad or bad after good?  Which way do we go?”

For its part, FEMA says it and the small business administration have given $7 million in emergency disaster assistance to residents and businesses here in West.

It’s the city itself and schools being denied help.

FEMA has also denied residents’ disaster unemployment assistance and crisis counseling.

During a memorial service one week after the explosion, President Obama promised to help West.

He told the crowd of mourners, “We are here to say you are not alone, you are not forgotten. We may not all live here in Texas but we’re neighbors too.  We’re American too.”

Mayor Muska didn’t forget what the President said.  “He promised that he’d be behind us and he’s so far behind us, I can’t see him.  He needs to be beside us, not behind us.”

In a statement Wednesday, Governor Perry said he anticipates President Obama will hold true to his word to help West.

Congressman Bill Flores, who represents West, told me he’s working with the Governor and both Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to persuade FEMA to re-consider its decision.

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