FEMA denies more aid to West, Texas

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HOUSTON -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency won't provide additional money to help rebuild the small Texas town where a fertilizer plant explosion leveled numerous homes and a school, and killed 15 people.

According to a letter obtained by The Associated Press, FEMA said it reviewed the state's appeal to help but decided that the explosion "is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration."

FEMA already has provided millions of dollars in aid to the town of West and its residents, but the decision prevents them from getting some of the widespread assistance typically available to victims of tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. It's not unusual, however, for FEMA to turn down that level of assistance for emergencies not stemming from natural disasters.

The decision likely means less money to pay for public repairs to roads, sewer lines, pipes and a school that was destroyed.

The blast killed 10 first responders. President Barack Obama attended a memorial service.

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As of yesterday, FEMA said the agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration had approved more than $7 million in aid and low-interest loans to West residents. FEMA also is paying 75 percent of the costs of debris removal and will reimburse the cost of the initial emergency response.

"I'm not sure what their definition of a major disaster is, but I know what I see over there and it's pretty bleak," West Mayor Tommy Muska said. -- AP

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