WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported today that federal disaster teams have deployed to Kansas to assist emergency rescue operations in the wake of yesterday's grain elevator explosion in Sedgwick County.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said the action was authorized by President Clinton under an emergency declaration issued today immediately after receiving the state's expedited request for federal assistance.
According to latest state reports, the explosion occurred in a grain elevator at DeBruce Grain in Haysville, causing the partial collapse of the concrete and steel structure. Two workers were killed by the blast and another 12 injured. Four other missing workers were believed to be trapped in a tunnel under the elevator where rescue operations are currently concentrated.
Under the emergency declaration, Witt said a 62-member Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) task force from Lincoln, Neb., has deployed to the explosion site to support the response effort. The unit is part of FEMA's National Urban Search and Rescue Response System composed of 27 task forces in 18 states. Each task force has a complement of search dogs.
Additionally, Witt said a 21-member Incident Support Team also was dispatched to provide technical assistance, situation assessments and resource coordination.
Carolyn J. Coleman, of FEMA's regional office in Kansas City, Mo., was named by Witt to coordinate the federal emergency relief effort.
Emergencies are declared by the President when essential aid is needed by state and local governments to help safeguard lives, protect property and public health, and lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe.