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FEMA Denies Disaster Aid to Tornado-Ravaged Harrisburg, Illinois

A southern Illinois town already reeling from a deadly tornado that killed seven people now has to digest the shocking news that the federal disaster relief agency has denied them aid.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied disaster aid to Harrisburg, as well as other southern Illinois locales severely damaged by the February 29-March 2 tornadoes that swept through the area. Seven people died in Harrisburg.

“Based on our review of all the information available, it has been determined that the damage was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the State, affected local governments and voluntary agencies,” a FEMA statement said.

The decision was met with incredulity by state politicians and locals in the stricken areas.

“After personally surveying the damage and talking to many residents who lost their homes, I firmly believe federal assistance is crucial to help them begin the recovery process,” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said in a statement. Quinn had sought FEMA assistance for Gallatin, Randolph, Saline, Union and Williamson counties.

“I can’t believe this,” Sen. Dick Durbin is quoted in the State Journal-Register. “I’ve never seen worse tornado damage. We owe it to the people to make sure … everything was accounted for.”

“How was the decision made, who made the decision and why was it made? I think that’s a fair question that needs to be answered, of course, to those that lost everything. I think there are going to be a lot of discussions in the days ahead,” Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg told WSIL-TV.

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