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FEMA units visit sites hit by floods

Days after disaster assistance for individuals and businesses was authorized for residents of Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie counties, community relations teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are canvassing communities hardest-hit by last month's floods.

A FEMA news release indicates that six teams began touring neighborhoods in Silver Creek and Gowanda, both of which incurred severe damage in the storms and flooding of Aug. 8-10. The teams distributed pamphlets urging residents to register for assistance.

"People have to know that the first step is theirs," said Jennie Roman, a FEMA community relations specialist. "Until people register, we can't know how this disaster has affected them or what we can do to help."

To register for assistance, residents in the three counties covered by the disaster declaration should call (800) 621-3362. The hearing-impaired can call via TTY (800) 462-7585. Both lines will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. To register online, go to www.disasterassistance.gov.

Since assistance to individuals was authorized Friday, 132 people have registered, 79 of them online, and 46 home inspections have been completed, FEMA officials said.

The latest report by joint New York State/FEMA damage-assessment teams lists more than 900 damaged structures in the three counties.

"That number may go higher," said John R. Gibb, director of the state Emergency Management Office. "Only after we get the registrations will the true extent of this disaster become clear."

"We're covering a lot of ground today," Roman said. "Our main objective is to get people to register. We're also here to answer any questions they have on the disaster-assistance process, . . . but we still have a lot of neighborhoods to reach."

e-mail: citydesk@buffnews.com

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