USA

USA: President declares major disaster for hurricane-battered Alabama

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Release Number: HQ-05-139

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that President Bush has ordered the federal government to provide all necessary disaster resources and assets for Alabama to aid people battered by Hurricane Dennis.

Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the President took the action under a major disaster declaration issued for Alabama in response to the hurricane that struck the state this afternoon.

"President Bush acted quickly because of his great concern for the safety and welfare of all those who stood in the path of this fierce storm," Brown said. "The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA have the resources in hand to meet critical emergency needs and are prepared to work with our state and local partners to deliver them as fast as humanely possible."

Brown said emergency assistance triggered by the declaration can range from the use of federal personnel, equipment and lifesaving systems to the delivery of heavy-duty generators, plastic sheeting, tents, cots, food, water, medical aid and other essential supplies and materials for sustaining human life.

In addition to emergency aid, Brown said the declaration makes federal funds available for the long-term recovery of hurricane-stricken residents and business owners in the hard-hit counties of Baldwin and Mobile.

The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.

Additionally, Brown said the state and affected local governments and certain private non-profit organizations in 45 counties are eligible to apply for federal funds to pay 75 percent of the approved costs for debris removal and emergency protective services related to the hurricane, including requested emergency work undertaken by the federal government. For a period of up to 72 hours, Brown said emergency protective services and requested federal emergency work, excluding debris removal, would be paid at 100 percent federal funding.

The 45 counties designated eligible for the assistance include Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Coffee, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington and Wilcox.

Brown said federal funding also will be available to the state on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that aid for residents in other counties and additional forms of assistance for state and local government agencies may be designated later as conditions allow damage to be assessed in the stricken area.

James N. Russo of FEMA was named by Brown to coordinate federal recovery operations. Russo said that affected residents and business owners in the designated counties of Baldwin and Mobile can begin the disaster application process by registering online at http://www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting tomorrow 24-hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.

Because of the anticipated high volume of initial calls, owners of commercial properties and residents with only minor losses are urged to wait a few days before calling so those whose homes were destroyed or heavily damaged can be served first. Storm victims with insurance coverage should contact their insurance company or agent before calling to report losses and, if necessary, to request an advance or partial payment of their settlement.

FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.