Almost two months after the deadly West Co. Fertilizer plant explosion that wreaked havoc in West, Texas and killed 15 people, residents seeking to rebuild their lives are being met with yet another hardship. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied West’s request for any additional funds for rebuilding, preventing those who were within the damage zone of the blast site from getting assistance from FEMA that is usually available to those affected by tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.
FEMA was providing financial aid to the town, but the denial of further assistance from the agency ends the distribution of funds that would have helped with the rebuilding of roads, sewer lines, pipes, a school, and other places that were damaged by the blast. Further aid for counseling and other services for individuals were also denied by FEMA.
A letter obtained by The Associated Press, signed by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and addressed to Governor Rick Perry, detailed FEMA’s review of the state of Texas’ appeal for further financial aid for West, with FEMA determining that the explosion “is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.” According to the FEMA website’s description of response and recovery for national disasters, “a major disaster can be a result of hurricanes, earthquakes, flood, tornados or major fires…” and “the event must be clearly more than state or local governments can handle alone.”
West Mayor Tommy Muska claims the site of the blast and the surrounding area is damaged and desolate. Muska estimated the town’s damage from the blast at $57 million, with an additional $40 million to rebuild and repair schools. Muska believes that other disasters, such as the tornado devastation in Oklahoma, has pushed West even farther down on the list of priorities for disaster relief funds.
Residents of West are holding on to a small amount of hope that the state can push FEMA into reversing its denial, but the chances of that happening are very slim unless the president takes action.
Krysta is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.