FEMA Official Says Agency Response Slow After Ike

By: AP
By: AP

HOUSTON – A top official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency admits that the agency was sluggish in its response to Texans affected by Hurricane Ike's devastation, according to a published report.

Deputy FEMA Administrator Harvey E. Johnson Jr. said he intends to improve the help that the agency provides to Texans whose home were damaged or destroyed by the September hurricane. He said FEMA will deploy mobile homes to the hardest-hit areas more rapidly, review rules that might be causing premature denials of assistance and provide more resources to Texas.

He said Friday he has put more personnel into Texas housing assistance programs. He invited energy company officials into FEMA's Texas field offices to help provide electric power to mobile homes housing storm victims, and he has started a review of procedures that result in relatively few families being approved for assistance when they first apply.

Ike came ashore near Galveston on Sept. 13, causing at least $11 billion in damage to Texas.

Johnson met this past week with local officials in Galveston, the Beaumont-Port Arthur area and Houston.

"I think that I agree with the elected officials I met with," Johnson told the Houston Chronicle. "They all have called and expressed the concern that FEMA is moving too slowly. Within FEMA, there is a renewed sense of energy to redouble or triple our efforts, that we need to box some ears."

Officials in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange say they need thousands of temporary homes, particularly for refinery and chemical plant workers who toil in industries crucial to the local economy.

Johnson said FEMA's assessment shows that 2,800 to 5,100 mobile homes are needed in Texas.


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