RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday approved federal disaster assistance for seven North Carolina counties hit hard by Hurricane Irene.
The disaster declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide low-interest loans or grants to hurricane survivors to help them repair homes, pay medical costs and rebuild businesses.
"We're grateful for that rapid response," Governor Bev Perdue said in a statement.
"Our fellow North Carolinians who suffered losses during this storm need to start rebuilding their lives now -- not tomorrow."
The presidential declaration covers the eastern counties of Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell.
Local, state and federal emergency management teams continue to survey damage in other areas, and officials said more counties could be added to the list later.
Perdue said Tuesday that the hurricane destroyed or severely damaged at least 1,100 homes and caused more than $71 million in damage in the seven hardest-hit counties. The storm resulted in seven deaths and more than 600,000 power outages in the state, according to the governor's office.
(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jerry Norton)