Obama OKs Federal Aid for West Virginia; At Least 24 Dead

CLENDENIN, W.Va. (AP) -
West Virginia State Trooper C.S. Hartman, walks from a shed that he checked out as he and other crews search homes in Rainelle, W. Va., Saturday, June 25, 2016. Heavy rains that pummeled West Virginia left multiple people dead, and authorities said Saturday that an unknown number of people in the hardest-hit county remained unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
West Virginia State Trooper C.S. Hartman, walks from a shed that he checked out as he and other crews search homes in Rainelle, W. Va., June 25. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

 

With the missing accounted for in all but one county, West Virginia has begun turning its attention to recovery after disastrous floods killed at least 24 people and rendered many more homeless. The deluge tore through roads and bridges and knocked out utilities that still haven’t been restored in some communities.

Federal money will be part of the rebuilding equation.

Sunday marks the first day people can apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid in Greenbrier, Kanawha and Nicholas counties.

Obama’s signature Saturday on the federal disaster declaration lets residents in three counties get aid for temporary housing and home repairs, receive low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and qualify for other assistance for individuals and business owners. Federal money to help the state and local governments is also available on a cost-sharing basis.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration still believes there are people missing in Greenbrier County, and the death toll there rose by one Saturday, said Tomblin chief of staff Chris Stadelman.

The focus is moving away from the days-long, difficult search and rescue process, where residents were helped off roofs, out of attics, and shimmied down trees into rescue boats. Through that arduous process, bodies were sometimes found and the death toll continued to rise.

On Saturday, FEMA officials were in the state to begin assessing the damage to infrastructure, homes and other property.

Obama spoke by phone to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Saturday while returning to Washington, D.C., from Seattle, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement Saturday.

Schultz said Obama is committed to ensuring that Tomblin has the federal resources he needs for all recovery efforts. The president has directed White House staff to coordinate closely with Tomblin’s team to make sure the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, is providing all appropriate assistance.

Fifteen of the 16 deaths in Greenbrier County struck the tiny town of Rainelle. Six other deaths were reported in Kanawha, in addition to one each in Jackson and Ohio counties.