FEMA approves aid for Texas fertilizer plant blast

The remains of a home burn early Thursday morning, April 18, 2013, after a fertilizer plant exploded Wednesday night in West, Texas. The massive explosion killed as many as 15 people and injured more than 160, shaking the ground with the strength of a small earthquake and leveling homes and businesses for blocks in every direction. (Photo/LM Otero)

August 2, 2013 10:17:21 AM PDT
The Federal Emergency Management Agency reversed its earlier decision Friday and approved additional funding to help rebuild the small Texas town where an April fertilizer plant explosion leveled homes, damaged buildings and killed 15 people.

Gov. Rick Perry confirmed that FEMA had approved Texas' appeal of its initial decision in June to deny major disaster declaration funding.

FEMA already has provided millions of dollars in aid to West and its residents, but the original denial had prevented them from getting some of the widespread assistance typically available to victims of tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. It also had slowed the effort to rebuild schools and other municipal structures.

"I know that they didn't make the right decision, but I'm glad they changed that decision," West Mayor Tommy Muska said in an interview Friday. He added, jokingly: "I think I just missed a call from the White House."

West Independent School District superintendent Marty Crawford said the additional funding will allow officials to move forward with plans to rebuild the schools damaged in the April 17 blast.

"You can call me an eternal optimist," Crawford said, his voice heavy with emotion, "but I've always had faith that this little piece of Americana was going to be taken care of."

The White House issued a statement, saying federal funding is available to "state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged."

Perry thanked Texas' congressional delegation for helping in the appeal.

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