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White House says Ohio train derailment doesn't qualify for disaster relief

'FEMA is on the frontlines when there is a hurricane or tornado. This situation is different,' an official said

Published: February 17, 2023 1:38pm

Updated: February 17, 2023 4:58pm

The Biden administration says the remediation from recent train derailment in Ohio that resulted in a toxic fire does not qualify for federal disaster relief such efforts will be "much more expansive than what FEMA can provide."

Administration official told Fox News Digital the Environmental Protection Agency is "mobilizing a robust, multi-agency effort" that includes working with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and "personnel on the ground" to help resident in the city of East Palestine, where the derailment occurred Feb 3.

"But what East Palestine needs is much more expansive than what FEMA can provide," the official said. "FEMA is on the frontlines when there is a hurricane or tornado. This situation is different."

The Norfolk Southern train derailed near the Ohio-Pennsylvania, resulting in a days-long fire. Ten of the 50 train cars contained toxic chemicals including vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate, which are combustible liquids. They were siphoned off a few days ago in an attempt to avert an explosion. 

East Palestine residents had to evacuate out of precaution and safety, but they remain concerned about the drinking water and how the spill will affect their animals.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the departments of Health, Transportation and Health and Human Services are also on the scene.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg drew some backlash for some comments he made that came off as insensitive regarding the situation. 

"While this horrible situation has gotten a particularly high amount of attention, there are roughly 1,000 cases a year of a train derailing. Obviously they have levels of severity," Buttigieg said in a video uploaded by Yahoo News. 

"Oh I feel much better now," Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted sarcastically in response to Buttigieg's statement. 

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