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Ohio Governor, Mike DeWine (R), announced Friday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will deploy federal services to East Palestine, Ohio, two weeks after a train derailment caused a chemical spill, a controlled burn, and a subsequent apocalyptic explosion that released toxic chemicals into the air and the local water supply.
For the past two weeks, FEMA has consistently told the concerned and struggling residents of East Palestine that they were "not eligible for assistance" despite the creeks in the area being filled with rainbow-colored water and dead fish.
Now, after two weeks of public outrage from those in East Palestine and elsewhere, DeWine announced Friday, "Following further discussions with FEMA tonight, they will be deploying federal resources to East Palestine."
According to a joint statement released Friday by Governor DeWine and FEMA Regional Administrator Thomas C. Sivak, "FEMA and the state of Ohio have been in constant contact regarding emergency operations in East Palestine."
"U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA have been working together since day one," the statement added.
"Tomorrow, FEMA will supplement federal efforts by deploying a Senior Response Official along with a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) to support ongoing operations, including coordination and ongoing assessment of potential long-term recovery needs," the statement continued.
On Thursday, Governor DeWine's press secretary, Dan Tierney, said that the situation in East Palestine was ineligible for a FEMA disaster declaration because, despite the derailment being a disaster, there was no destruction of property.
On Thursday, Tierney said, "We are ineligible for a FEMA disaster declaration, we've been told by FEMA that we will not meet the qualifications at this time. And the reason for that is that FEMA disaster declarations are related to property damage, and solely property damage."
In addition to the announcement of FEMA assistance in East Palestine, DeWine announced that Ohio will also be setting up a medical clinic in East Palestine this week "to engage with residents, answer questions, evaluate any symptoms, and provide medical expertise."
According to DeWine's office, in response to a request from the Governor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will also be sending federal officials to support the new clinic.
While federal agencies are finally beginning to respond to the disaster, it doesn't explain the bizarre coincidence that occurred before the train derailed.
According to Bob Moore, a 70-year-old farmer who lives in East Palestine, the local government began pushing a medical monitoring program called "MyID" on January 23, one week prior to the derailment.
The program encouraged residents to obtain medical tracking devices, similar to a Fitbit or Apple Watch, from the local fire department and to wear them to monitor vital signs. The program would purportedly help first responders treat individuals faster in an emergency situation. A week after the program's rollout, the train derailed.
The timing of the MyID program, along with why FEMA and other emergency services were not provided to residents for a full 2 weeks after the incident, are just 2 of several bizarre coincidences and circumstances surrounding the disaster.
It should also be noted that the announcement that FEMA would be deployed to East Palestine came after former President Donald Trump announced that he plans to visit the town next week.
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