House hearing set on Dumas tornado response | Arkansas Blog

House hearing set on Dumas tornado response



With the Democrats now controlling both houses of Congress, there is finally the opportunity to hold the Bush adminstration accountable for its mismanagement.

Case in point: U.S. Rep. Mike Ross today announced that he secured a House Homeland Security Committee hearing to investigate the (non-existent) federal response to the tornadoes that devastated Dumas and other parts of Desha County on Feb. 24.

The hearing will take place next Thursday, March 15.

Full release after the jump.

Ross Secures House Oversight Hearing on FEMA's Lack of Response in Desha County

House Homeland Security Committee to Hold Hearing Thursday, March 15th 2007

Washington - U.S. Rep. Mike Ross (AR-04) has been notified by the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that a hearing will be held on the lack of a federal response to two terrible tornadoes that devastated Desha County, Arkansas, on February 24, 2007.  Ross received confirmation of his request Wednesday for a hearing from Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Chairman of the Committee. 

The House Committee on Homeland Security will hold the hearing on Thursday, March 15th at 1:00 p.m. in Room 311 of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC.

"I will not allow the people of Dumas, Back Gate and Desha County to be forgotten, and this is the next step in demanding accountability from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and our federal government," Ross said. "It has been 11 days since these two tornadoes hit Desha County and FEMA has done nothing. This is a symbol of what is wrong with FEMA and why so many people have lost confidence in their government."

The tornadoes that passed through Desha County, Arkansas, destroyed or heavily damaged more than 150 homes; caused up to 800 people to be out of work because more than 25 businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged; required the Governor to send in the National Guard to enforce security and for clean up purposes; and forced the town to be without electrical power for six days.  In this small town, with a population of more than 5,000, this level of damage and destruction has been overwhelming. 

In a  March 7, 2007, article from Stephens Washington Bureau, FEMA spokesman John Philbin was quoted saying, "the damages or need for federal assistance are not readily apparent."

President Bush still has not declared Desha County a federal disaster area, and Ross has been fighting to give displaced residents access to temporary housing.  Specifically, Ross has called on President Bush, Director of FEMA David Paulison and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to declare Desha County a Federal Disaster Area and to move 150 of the 8,420 new, fully furnished mobile homes sitting less than three hours away at a FEMA staging area in Hope, Arkansas, for displaced storm victims. 

Ross spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday night and again Wednesday afternoon about the lack of response from FEMA where he displayed photos from Desha County and an aerial shot of the 8,420 brand new, fully furnished mobile homes in Hope.  Ross, along with Arkansas elected officials and Desha County residents contributed to a CNN story on "Anderson Cooper 360" describing the lack of response for the hundreds of people affected by the tornadoes.

According to CNN, FEMA says federal help will not be sent to Desha County because the state has a budget surplus.

"The response from FEMA has been appalling and they must be held accountable for their statements and their lack of actions," Rep. Ross said. "Since when did FEMA get in the business of 'means testing'? Their job is to act as a first responder to help Americans who are in need after a disaster. The American people expect bureaucratic red tape from the IRS, but not from the government agency that is supposed to be there in time of disaster."

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