67 F
Fort Worth
Saturday, September 19, 2020
- Advertisements -
Government FEMA approves aid for Texas fertilizer plant blast

FEMA approves aid for Texas fertilizer plant blast

Other News

Exxon’s oil slick

Exxon Mobil is slashing its capital spending budget for 2020 by 30% due to weak demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a market...

Folk music’s Mark Twain: 7 Essential tracks from John Prine,

NEW YORK (AP) — Some people, the songs just come out of them. For nearly half a century, they tumbled out of John Prine...

Tarrant County records another COVID-19 death

Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH) on Wednesday, April 8 reported that a resident of Euless has died as the result of the COVID-19 virus....

Tradition stymied: A year unlike any since WWII for Augusta

The Masters is so intertwined with Augusta, they added an extra day to spring break.You see, the first full week of April isn't just...
Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.


WILL WEISSERT,Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency reversed its previous decision and approved additional funding Friday to help rebuild the small Texas town where an April fertilizer plant explosion leveled homes, damaged buildings and killed 15 people.

President Barack Obama issued a “major disaster declaration” for the community of West, just north of Waco, freeing up federal support to supplement state and local reconstruction efforts that are already underway.

Even before the decision, FEMA had provided millions of dollars in aid to West and its residents, but in June denied Texas’ original application for major disaster funding, preventing the town from accessing widespread assistance money typically available to victims of tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

In its original letter to the state, FEMA said the explosion was “not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.” That ruling affected both public assistance aid — which provides funding to the city to rebuild — and further individual aid, which provides crisis counseling and other services.

Gov. Rick Perry had vowed to appeal the decision and released a statement Friday calling the reversal “great and welcome news for the people of West.” He also thanked the state’s congressional delegation for “standing with the people whose lives have been forever impacted to move this appeal forward.”

Reached by cellphone, West Mayor Tommy Muska joked: “I think I just missed a call from the White House.”

“It’s going to throw open the door to federal funding,” Muska said, later adding, “I know that they didn’t make the right decision, but I’m glad they changed that decision.”

A fire at the West Fertilizer Co. the evening of April 17 triggered an explosion that smashed homes, business and municipal buildings and emitted waves of energy so fierce it registered as a small earthquake and left a 93-foot crater. Fifteen people — 10 of them first-responders rushing to fight the initial blaze — were killed and about 200 others injured.

The close-knit farming community was thrust into the national spotlight, and Obama even traveled to Waco to attend a memorial service for the West victims.

The cause of the fire remains unclear, and a criminal investigation is still open. But investigators say the heat of the blaze destabilized tons of ammonium nitrate, a potentially explosive fertilizer, being stored at the plant. The incident highlighted how loosely regulated storage of potentially dangerous chemicals are statewide, and critics say the state government needs to tighten its oversight of such plants.

West Independent School District Superintendent Marty Crawford’s voice cracked as he talked Friday about FEMA’s aid reversal.

“It’s already a little emotional right here. I don’t know if I’m in shape to talk to you,” he said. “We’ve been living this for three months and it’s been pretty major.”

Parts of three schools were damaged in the blast, and hundreds of older students had to be bused to a Waco-area school district for the last weeks of the most recent school year. Officials are working to level part of the damaged middle school and set up a temporary campus for all classes to resume in West later this month.

“Our main concern is getting kids back in school in West on August 26,” Crawford said. “That’s going to be a great day. It’s going to be in temporary facilities, but either way.”

He said the additional funding will allow officials to more quickly tackle construction of permanent school facilities, but added, “We’re more worried about the next 24 days right now.”

Crawford, who says he greets new residents to West by saying “welcome to the way things used to be,” insisted he never lost faith that the federal government would come through — eventually.

“You can call me an eternal optimist,” he said, “but I’ve always had faith that this little piece of Americana was going to be taken care of.”  

- Advertisements -
- Advertisements -

Latest News

Can Trump and McConnell get through the 4 steps to seat a Supreme Court justice in just 6 weeks?

Caren Morrison, Georgia State University United States Supreme Court...

Trump backs proposed deal to keep TikTok operating in US; Texas mentioned as HQ

By STAN CHOE AP Business WriterNEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump said Saturday he's given his "blessing" to a proposed deal...

Texas bars and distilleries rip Gov. Greg Abbott for leaving them out of “unacceptable” reopening plan

By Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, The Texas Tribune Sept. 19, 2020 "Texas bars and distilleries rip...

Supreme Court justices remember Ginsburg

'I loved her to pieces,' retired Justice Souter says of RBGWASHINGTON (AP) — The remaining eight Supreme Court justices, and two former...

No vote on RBG successor until after election, Collins says

By DAVID SHARP Associated PressRepublican Sen. Susan Collins said Saturday there should be no vote on a successor to the late Supreme...