Denial of federal quake aid frustrates Oklahoma governor

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 01, 2011 8:23 PM
Denial of federal quake aid frustrates Oklahoma governor

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is "disappointed and frustrated" that her request for individual federal aid to earthquake victims has been denied, but a federal government spokeswoman said on Thursday that the damage wasn't severe enough to warrant the help.

Nearly 200 homes and businesses were damaged by a series of earthquakes in central Oklahoma that began on November 5. One quake that measured 5.6 in magnitude was the largest ever recorded in the state. No one was killed and most damage occurred in a lightly populated area east of Oklahoma City.

Even so, most affected homeowners and business owners did not have earthquake insurance when the unusually strong quakes struck, Fallin said in a news release critical of the decision to deny aid.

State government and volunteer groups have been "stretched thin" in responding to severe weather and other calamities that have plagued Oklahoma this year while further damage from the November earthquakes has been uncovered since the initial damage assessment, the Republican governor said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency helped Oklahoma in conducting the initial earthquake damage assessment, and the state can appeal the agency's decision not to grant disaster aid, said Rachel Racusen, FEMA's director of public affairs.

FEMA this year has issued four major disaster declarations for Oklahoma and 25 grants to help firefighters in the state, Racusen said.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Cynthia Johnston)