In a statement to Fox News, an official within the Biden administration said that they are "mobilizing a robust, multi-agency effort to support the people of East Palestine, Ohio," and that "FEMA is coordinating with the emergency operations center working closely with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency."
However, "what East Palestine needs is much more expansive than what FEMA can provide," the official continued. "FEMA is on the frontlines when there is a hurricane or tornado. This situation is different."
On Thursday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) turned down Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's request for disaster relief after a derailed Norfolk Southern Railroad train released toxic chemicals into the town of East Palestine.
"FEMA continues to advise that Ohio is not eligible for assistance at this time," DeWine said on Twitter.
According to the representative from the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Transportation and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are aiding in the safety assessments and helping the local community.
"The state needed help testing the water and air — EPA is providing it. They called for an investigation into the derailment — the Department of Transportation is on it. The Governor today asked for help to conduct additional public health testing and assessments — we're deploying teams from HHS and the CDC to get that done," the official added.
"Each federal agency has its own unique role here, and we've mobilized an interagency team to get the people of East Palestine the support they need."
The FEMA snub comes two weeks after 38 train cars worth of vinyl chloride, a dangerous colorless gas, derailed in the northeastern Ohio village. As a means of disposing the gas, Norfolk Southern decided to release the hazardous fumes into the air. Chemical spillage made its way into the water, killing off thousands of local fish as well as animals including domesticated chickens and foxes, according to Fox 19.
According to the local outlet, at least eight suits have already been filed against the railroad company, "seeking class-action status with more than $5 million in damages."
State Attorney General Dave Yost also threatened to sue in a letter, writing "The pollution, which continues to contaminate the area around East Palestine, created a nuisance, damage to natural resources and caused environmental harm."
In response to the outrage from locals, Norfolk Southern Railroad president and CEO Alan H. Shaw released a statement, writing, "I know you also have questions about whether Norfolk Southern will be here to help make things right. My simple answer is that we are here and will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive."
"Our work is underway. Crews are cleaning the site thoroughly, responsibly, and safely. Our Family Assistance Center is helping community members meet immediate needs. Together with local health officials, we have implemented a comprehensive testing program to ensure the safety of East Palestine's water, air, and soil. And we have established a $1 million community support fund as a down payment on our commitment to help rebuild," he said.
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