Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2002
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
512-463-0127

Sen. Lucio requests expansion of FEMA definition of major disaster

AUSTIN, TX-After a second denial by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in declaring the collapse of the Queen Isabella Bridge a major disaster, Sen. Lucio today wrote to the Texas Congressional Delegation requesting that the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act be revised.

"The bridge collapse took eight lives and cost the area an estimated $100 million in lost revenue, overwhelming our state and local resources," wrote the Senator. "It seems that the Stafford Act, which was intended to assist victims of a catastrophe, is not versatile enough to help certain disaster victims."

Currently, the Stafford Act applies only to natural catastrophes. The collapse of a bridge or any other structure of significant size does not qualify as a major disaster, regardless of the impact on human life or the economy.

Sen. Lucio is requesting that the collapse of a structure with significant economic impact to an area qualify as a major disaster. Another consideration he is suggesting is the role the structure plays in providing safety to the surrounding community. The Queen Isabella Bridge is the only link to the mainland and evacuation route for residents, workers and tourists on South Padre Island.

"Although I commend the cooperative efforts and quick response by so many entities soon after the collapse, it is impossible to ignore either the human suffering or the economic losses that affected businesses and families," added Sen. Lucio. "For the future, we need to ensure that other disasters such as this be given full consideration under the Stafford Act, which will be possible through a revision."

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