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Federal Disaster Aid Approved For Nashville Blast Recovery

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán

Federal disaster aid was approved Tuesday in response to the Christmas morning bombing in downtown Nashville.

Gov. Bill Lee had requested assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the following day. He announced the approval 10 days later along with his gratitude to the agency and the president.

Lee’s initial tour of the blast zone led him to call it a “miracle” that no residents were killed. The only fatality was Anthony Warner, the Antioch man who blew up his RV on Second Avenue North. Seven were injured, according to local hospitals.

The explosion damaged more than 40 buildings. One of them — an AT&T transmission facility — also suffered fires and water damage, leading to a multi-state phone and internet outage, including multiple 911 call centers.

No dollar amount has been released for the FEMA aid, though the cap is $5 million. The agency says additional designations could be made later if requested.

The funds can help with firefighting costs, communications, sheltering and safety inspections, among other needs.

Damage assessments have been difficult because some buildings are at risk of collapse. Officials are also using underground cameras to see how many early-1900s sewer pipes were destroyed.

“This is the first step on a long recovery journey,” said Myra M. Shird, the FEMA coordinating officer for the blast zone.

The disaster relief is separate from $2 million in aid from the federal Victims of Crime Act that is eligible for survivors and businesses.

FEMA still has Tennessee under another active disaster — for severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding, following the March 3 storms that tore through the state. That declaration took just two days following the deadly storms.  

Tony Gonzalez, a reporter in Nashville since July 2011, covers city news, features inspiring people, and seeks out offbeat stories. He’s also an award-winning juggler and hot chicken advocate who lives in East Nashville with his wife, a professional bookbinder. During his time at The Tennessean newspaper, his investigative reporting and feature stories were honored in the state and nationally. Gonzalez grew up near Chicago and came to Nashville after three years reporting and editing at Virginia's smallest daily newspaper, The News Virginian.
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