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Flood Victims Share Their Frustrations With FEMA, State Officials

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TARBORO — Most of the flooding from Hurricane Floyd has slowly drained away. But it has been a steady drain on the patience of people who still cannot go back home. Thursday evening, many of them had the chance to vent their frustrations to FEMA, state officials, and anyone else holding the cash for recovery.

At a meeting in Tarboro, residents shared their frustrations and wanted answers about the future of their community. It also gave officials the chance to let residents know how to get the help they need.

After two weeks of dealing with the worst of what nature can dish out, they understand recovering will take the best mankind has to offer.

"We are all concerned about making sure that everybody can get back into where they were, if not all the way there, then most of the way. We want to give them as much help as we can," says Tarboro resident Morris Mays.

Residents want to know about the safety of their drinking water, and the safety of their homes.

For some who have lost everything, help cannot come soon enough. Pinetops resident Martha Johnson worries about the future of her community.

"I'm just disappointed that there is not a more coordinated effort between the state and my county officials to get this information out to these places, to the people, in a timely manner. To me time is the important issue here," says Johnson.

Johnson is not alone in her concerns. FEMA and state officials pointed out that North Carolina is just one of 18 states currently recovering from natural disasters.

But the extent of the devastation is leaving an impression on FEMA officials who got an aerial tour of the damage Thursday.

EPA Administrator Carol Browner says she has seen floods before, but nothing like what Floyd left behind.

FEMA officials say it will take time to get around to everyone in need of their help.

"Sometimes they may be eligible for programs of which they're not even aware," says FEMA spokesperson Jay Baker. "We can't tell them over the telephone. When they call the application hotline number we ask 'What happened to you?' Then, from their words and description, we send out an inspector to evaluate what happened to them and what is their best plan for their long-term recovery."

Baker says no matter what you do, do not cancel your on-site interview with a FEMA inspector. He says that just further delays the process.