State Wants Extension On Debris Spotter Funding - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

11/09/05

State Wants Extension On Debris Spotter Funding

In Kansas, Jim Cherry and Zack Kesler are fish and wildlife officers. In hurricane devastated Long Beach, they're debris spotters.

"What we're looking for at this time are anything that might look like appendages. And sometimes it's a little difficult in that the deceased that are still in here, don't look like they're recently deceased. So we're looking among the roots, branches and dirt. We're trying to see anything that might resemble human remains," says Cherry.

Cherry, Kesler and 28 other first responders will spend two weeks watching debris removal before rotating with other crews. FEMA pays all their expenses. But on November 26th, FEMA will trim that to 90 percent while the state and local governments pick up the other ten percent. The state is asking for an extension of the full funding.

"I think it's going to depend on how many people are still unaccounted for. If we still have numbers that are unaccounted for, then we got to try to find out where those people are," Mississippi Emergency Management Director Robert Latham says.

To do that, Latham and Harrison County's Coroner don't think it will be tough convincing the feds that the 100 percent funding should stay in place. With people missing and debris cleanup still underway, they say the extra manpower is a must.

"I do expect that we will get the extension and if we don't I'll be surprised," says Coroner Gary Hargrove.

Latham says, "If local governments identify that as a need and they feel like there's certainly a possibility then we've got to be able to provide that resource to them."

Six bodies have been uncovered in the rubble south of the railroad in Harrison and Hancock Counties, and Hargrove says they have to be prepared to find more.

"I'm hoping there will not be any more people in that debris line, but the fact is, we have to be realistic about that there could be," says Hargrove.

byMarcia Hill

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