Nov. 9, 2003 — The Virgin Islands has been declared a federal disaster area as the result of at least two weeks of heavy rains in November which triggered flooding, land and mud slides that caused damage assessed at $30 million.
The declaration, which had been sought by the Turnbull administration, came Tuesday afternoon by way of a four-paragraph statement from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. The president declared that a major disaster exists in the U.S. Virgin Islands and ordered federal aid to supplement the territory's recovery efforts.
McClellan told White House reporters that federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for repairs to public facilities damaged by the November storms. The statement said that federal dollars would become available also on a cost-sharing basis to fund hazard-mitigation measures.
The cost sharing limits federal money to 75 percent of the total eligible amount, according to a letter from President George W. Bush to Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response.
Brown has named Brad Gair to be the federal coordinating officer for the Virgin Islands during the recovery. Gair will interact with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's authorized representative, Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to chart the recovery process.
The administration had been tapping local monies to make emergency repairs on roadways in the Virgin Islands since the torrential downpours last month. Turnbull had said in the aftermath of the heavy rains that assessments would be carried out "and if we qualify for federal assistance, we will seek it out."
Additional designations of the territory as a federal disaster area may be made at a later date if requested by the government and if conditions warrant the extension of the declaration based on damage assessments. The 75 percent share would also apply to additional monies.
In a statement issued Tuesday night from Government House, Turnbull extended his thanks to the president.
In late November, Bush had declared neighboring Puerto Rico, where many people died due to the floods and mud slides, a disaster area.
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