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nosmokes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-16-07 03:48 PM
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The Southwest's 'Little Katrina' Revisited
'Infrastructure? We don't need no steenkin infrastructure.'


The Southwest's 'Little Katrina' Revisited

By Kent Paterson

At the Pepper Pot restaurant in Hatch, N.M., visitors might be startled to see a hallway photo exhibit that shows the town under water and young men in a rescue boat. Best known for its flavorful green chile, arid Hatch is among the last places one might expect a flood.

Yet residents of the southern New Mexican farming community of about 1,600 souls are having a hard time shaking the memories of August 2006, the month when the Placitas Arroyo overflowed and flooded the village's center. More than 400 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and 500 people displaced. According to Lupe Castillo of the Hatch Area Recovery Team (HART), 95% of residents did not have flood insurance. After all, who would have thought about carrying an "unnecessary" expense in this irrigated desert?

Nearly one year later, many Hatch residents complain that they got the short end of the disaster relief stick. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spokesman Earl Armstrong confirms that payments to property owners carried an upper limit of $28,500, with the average check ranging between $3,000 and $5,000 -- an amount many flood victims report was spent quickly on repairs, new furniture and bills.

Martha Morales' 84-year-old mother received $10,000 from FEMA for her flooded home but found that the money didn't cover all the needed repairs and new furnishings. "We're grateful for their help, but it's not enough," Morales says.

Simply put, FEMA does not fully compensate victims of natural disasters. FEMA's function is to supplement claims paid by private insurers. What's more, the agency funnels tax dollars to private insurance companies that make payments under National Flood Insurance Program claims.

The non-profit HART was established to help people who fall through official cracks, but spokesperson Castillo acknowledges that HART's fundraising goals have fallen far short of its $230,000 target. By the end of May, HART had raised about $44,500 and had spent more than $27,000, according to Castillo.
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