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Thousands await assistance in WV

BY HENRY BRIER | WEST VIRGINIA | August 8, 2001


"We're absolutely praying for no more heavy rain."

—Doug Goebel


Less than a month after experiencing severe rainstorms that brought

on the worst flooding in southern West Virginia's contemporary

history, many residents in the 24 counties declared federal emergency

areas, are focusing efforts on providing housing for displaced

citizens.

"The first priority is housing. Winter is on its way," said Doug

Goebel, a spokesman for the West Virginia Council of Churches.

"There's so many displaced people right now. Flooding is over, we

hope, and as of now, the area is still very unstable. We're

absolutely praying for no more heavy rain."

Thus far, 11,565 people have registered for federal aid in West

Virginia, where almost half of the state's 55 counties have been

declared disaster areas, according to Bland Franklin, a Federal

Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) liaison.

FEMA has disbursed more than $30 million in aid so far, divided

amongst families and individuals, renting and fixing, family, medical

and funeral expenses, as well as small business and personal

expenses, among other areas, according to Len DeCarlo, a FEMA

spokesman.

"We may never know the total damage to infrastructure," DeCarlo said.

Meanwhile, with assistance from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance,

approximately a half a million dollars worth of building supplies

earmarked for flood survivors is expected to be delivered soon,

according to the Rev. Kris Peterson, a Church World Service disaster

response specialist.

In north western Virginia, where seven counties were declared federal

disaster areas, 869 households have filed applications for federal

aid, according to Syd Holden, a FEMA spokesman.

Almost $2 million in federal funds has been disbursed to residents in

the seven Virginia counties, which are Tazewell, Wise, Smyth, Scott,

Russell, Dickenson and Buchanan, Holden said.

"We're trying to stay responsive to the situation," Holden said.

"We've got five housing inspectors out in field."

The first round of regional flooding occurred in June, and then early

in the morning of July 8, cloud bursts and flash floods brought on

severe fooding.

One evening in late July, heavy rains were the third significant

amount to fall upon southern West Virginia.

Flooding in West Virginia killed six people, officials said.

Goebel said a meeting later this month will convene people and

organizations interested in housing issues.

"We're bringing together people from flood zone, people from

non-profits and various funding agencies," Goebel said.


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