FEMA approves aid for Texas fertilizer plant blast - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

FEMA approves aid for Texas fertilizer plant blast

WEST, Texas -

The town of West will get its federal money to rebuild after all. Gov. Rick Perry says the Federal Emergency Management Agency has reversed its earlier decision and approved additional funding for the town devastated by a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in April.

The blast leveled homes, damaged schools and a nursing home. Fifteen people died.

FEMA provided initial funding relief to the town's residents.

But it denied Texas' application for a major disaster declaration in June that would provide millions of dollars to help the city and schools rebuild facilities and infrastructure.

Perry promised to ask again, and his statement thanks Texas' congressional delegation for helping in the appeal.

West had asked for about $60 million to make repairs after the explosion. They need $3 million right away to fix the water system and other infrastructure.

The home Willie and Buelah Zahirniak have lived in for 45 years is gone. It was damaged so bad it had to be demolished. It's the only home Willie has ever owned.

"I watched it being built and I watched them tear it down," said Willie Zahirniak.

Until the disaster declaration, the city of West had no money to fix its water pipes and other infrastructure damaged by the explosion.

The change of heart by the Obama Administration may also convince Willie and Buelah's neighbors to move back.

"Before, I could tell you where everybody lived. But I go down there now I can't tell you who lived where," said Willie Zahirniak.

West has lost 40% of its property tax base and 60% of its water revenues. The fear has been that residents who left after the blast won't come back.

Back in June, Mayor Tommy Muska expressed disappointment after West was denied by FEMA. "He promised he'd be behind us. He's so far behind us I can't see him. He needs to be beside us, not behind us," said Mayor Muska of President Barack Obama.

Friday, it seemed his views have changed. "He's beside us now. So that's good, that's a good place for him to be is beside us," said Mayor Muska.

As for Willie and Buelah Zahirniak, construction will begin next week on their new home.

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