Illinois politicians fuming as tornado aid rejected

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 12, 2012 5:49 PM
Illinois politicians fuming as tornado aid rejected

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois politicians reacted angrily on Monday to the disaster agency's rejection of the state's application for federal aid to rebuild from a deadly tornado.

Gov. Pat Quinn said he was preparing an appeal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's denial of aid for five counties in southern Illinois including the town of Harrisburg, where seven people were killed by the February 29 twister.

That storm was the first of two tornado outbreaks in one week that killed more than 50 people in eight states.

"This decision by FEMA is unacceptable and out of touch with the reality that residents of Harrisburg, Ridgway and the surrounding areas are facing as the storm clean-up continues," Illinois' two U.S. Senators, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk, said in a joint statement.

A FEMA spokesman said approval of disaster assistance was not automatic, and was based on an evaluation process. The agency would not estimate the proportion of applications that were rejected.

"I met with local officials, spent time with residents and saw firsthand the devastation and damage caused by the tornado in Southern Illinois. FEMA underestimated the impact this deadly tornado had on small towns like Harrisburg and Ridgway," Quinn said in a statement.

Quinn said he spoke to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and asked her to reconsider the decision on Illinois' request by FEMA, which falls under her purview.

FEMA does reject some requests for assistance after disasters, as it did for the request by Clermont County in southwestern Ohio where two people were killed by a tornado on March 2.

(Reporting By Andrew Stern in Chicago and Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Daniel Trotta)