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WASHINGTON – Following the recent devastating tornadoes that swept across Mississippi, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell traveled to the state today to survey the damage and meet with federal, state, and local officials.
Earlier today, President Joe Biden approved Mississippi’s request for an expedited major disaster declaration, making federal disaster assistance available to supplement recovery efforts. The declaration authorizes federal assistance to disaster survivors in Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey counties. This assistance may include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, crisis counseling, low-interest loans and other programs to help recovery efforts.
“It is inspiring to see people, not just the people in Mississippi, but the people of this country, assisting those in such dire need,” said Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “In disasters like this, there are no strangers: everyone comes together, everyone is a neighbor, everyone is family. They cannot do it alone, and the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA will be here as long as it takes. The entire federal family is here to support these communities.”
Governor Tate Reeves hosted Secretary Mayorkas, Administrator Criswell, Senator Roger Wicker, and Representative Bennie Thompson for an operational briefing from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) on tornado damage and emergency response efforts.
The officials also surveyed damage in the Rolling Fork area along with Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker and other local officials, and thanked first responders stationed at the National Guard Armory.
“FEMA is here. We remain committed to the people of Mississippi,” Administrator Deanne Criswell said during a news conference in Rolling Fork. “We will be here for you now, we will be with you next week, we will be here long after these cameras are gone to make sure we are assisting you with all your recovery needs.”
FEMA deployed Disaster Survivor Assistance teams, an Incident Management Assistance Team and several other staff to the state emergency operations center and affected areas. Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams will help gather detailed information on immediate disaster survivor needs. These teams will provide disaster survivors with on-site registration, applicant status checks, on-the-spot needs assessments, requests for disability-related accommodations and access to partners offering survivor services. The American Red Cross has already set up shelters to assist those with immediate needs and to help get people to a safe place now. FEMA will work with the state, as needed, to secure interim sheltering options for longer term needs.
The MEMA has coordinated multiple resources to help those impacted. Those resources include bottled water, potable water tankers, tarps, portable restrooms, hand washing stations, batteries, bank chargers and fuel for critical infrastructure generators. Three shelters remain open in the state, and the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other nonprofit organizations continue feeding and providing other services for survivors.
The devastation is extensive in several communities. If you are looking to volunteer time or resources, please do not self-deploy. Trusted organizations operating in the affected areas know where volunteers are needed and will ask for additional support and volunteer resources over the next few weeks and months. A list of agencies with volunteer opportunities can be found at VolunteerMississippi.org.
Survivors of this disaster can access federal support, if they have the connectivity, at www.disasterassistance.gov or 1-800-621-FEMA. For those without connectivity or phone service, FEMA will be deploying mobile disaster recovery centers to affected areas as well as teams that will visit shelters and neighborhoods to assist survivors in registering for FEMA assistance.
Free crisis counseling services are also available for survivors in the affected areas. These services are available 24 hours a day by calling (800) 985-5990 or by visiting www.SAMHSA.gov.