Recovery starts; groups offer assistance

05/10/2007 1:01 AM

01/24/2008 5:15 PM

This tornado-torn town officially moved from response to recovery mode Wednesday.

Officials think everyone has been accounted for, said Dave Sterbenz, deputy chief of the Topeka Fire Department. "We have absolutely no knowledge of missing persons or any bodies," he said.

Search crews will still be called as needed, Sterbenz said, but rescuers don't expect any calls.

The emphasis Wednesday was on building safety and cleanup. Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers continued to arrive, although there are no utilities.

The Sierra Club said it plans a teleconference today to say that Gulf Coast residents suffered ill effects from staying in similar trailers after Hurricane Katrina.

High school principal Darin Headrick said graduation ceremonies are planned for 11 a.m. May 19 at a Greensburg site still to be determined.

A disaster assistance center has been established at Barclay College at the corner of Kingman and Elm Streets in Haviland.

Greensburg residents can go there to seek charitable and government aid.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for residents to get the services they need without having to make multiple trips to multiple locations," said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in a statement from the adjutant general's office Wednesday.

The Salvation Army will distribute water, food, blankets and other necessities at the center from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The American Red Cross and FEMA will offer services from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. People seeking assistance from the Red Cross must bring some form of identification, such as a utility bill or driver's license verifying their pre-disaster home address. If you lost proof of identification and need a replacement, you can apply for that at the assistance center.

Also on hand at the center:

 The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services will determine Medicaid and HealthWave eligibility for medical assistance. It will also assist beneficiaries in getting duplicate ID cards.

 The Kansas Housing Resources Corp. will help displaced residents find other housing.

 The Southwest Kansas Area Agency on Aging will have case managers to help seniors with housing, transportation, assistive devices and prescriptions and other needs.

 State agencies will waive any fees associated with generating new copies of state records for tornado victims.

 State revenue officials will provide replacement car titles, driver's licenses and identification cards. Staff will also be available to assist taxpayers in obtaining copies of their tax returns and answer any other questions relating to their tax accounts.

 State health authorities will make replacement birth and marriage certificates available. Applicants will be interviewed to establish eligibility in order to ensure the retrieval of the correct record.

 The Kansas Department of Labor will sign up residents in need of state unemployment benefits and Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

 The U.S. Small Business Administration will provide disaster real estate loans of up to $200,000 for owners of real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.

 Disaster loans are also available for businesses and non-profit organizations. To be considered for all forms of disaster assistance, victims must first call the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 800-621-FEMA (3362).

Also available to area residents:

 The American Red Cross has shelters open in Haviland and Mullinville. A communications vehicle at the Haviland shelter can assist people with registering for the Safe and Well Web site.

The Red Cross also has four emergency response vehicles in Greensburg serving food and four vehicles providing minor first aid.

 An evacuation site at the Odd Fellows Lodge in St. John provides a place storm victims can rest, meet with friends and family and eat lunch. That site will operate from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. daily through the Red Cross.

 The Salvation Army is operating four canteens in Greensburg. A Kansas National Guard mobile kitchen is also there.

 Military families in need of financial assistance or other resources can receive help through the Kansas National Guard Family Program Office. The number is 800-432-2447 Ext. 9.

 Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental food and nutrition services are available for Greensburg residents at county health departments in Dodge City, 106 E. Spruce; Pratt, 712 S. Main; and other local WIC clinics. Residents who lost WIC checks will be able to have them replaced at WIC clinics. WIC clients who lost food during the tornado can also have checks to replace that food.

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