FEMA says ranks of homeless hurricane victims in Fla. rising by 100 a day

Friday, November 12th 2004, 6:42 am
By: News On 6

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ The number of Floridians left homeless by hurricanes is growing by as much as 100 people per day three months after the first of four storms hit the state, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official said.

Thousands of hurricane victims may be still living in damaged homes, with friends and family, in cars and even sheds, said Brad Gair, FEMA deputy coordinating officer in Orlando.

Nearly 3,100 hurricane victims were on a FEMA waiting list for temporary housing assistance as of Thursday. But officials said they've had to scramble to accommodate more people chased from their storm-damaged dwellings by mold and other previously undetected problems, Gair said.

``It is the largest operation of this type that we've done so we are building a system on the go to handle it,'' Gair said Thursday.

In devastated Punta Gorda, the relief agency spent $10 million to build a 66-acre development housing mobile homes. It opened two weeks ago but as of Thursday fewer than 100 of the 350 three-bedroom homes have been occupied.

``It's really kind of a stark environment but for many people it's like the Garden of Eden,'' FEMA spokesman Marvin Davis said.

The agency has about 5,000 smaller travel trailers _ purchased for about $25,000 each _ for hurricane victims at commercial parks or on homeowners' lots statewide.

FEMA said Palm Beach County households have received $105.7 million in hurricane disaster aid, more than any other county in the state. Polk County, southwest of Orlando in the path of three hurricanes, received the second highest amount, about $71 million.

FEMA and the state have given out $2.5 billion since August to help Florida residents and businesses recover from the hurricanes. The deadline to file for federal help for Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne has been extended until Dec. 31.

The Red Cross says more than 25,000 homes in Florida were destroyed and more than 40,000 had major damage from the storms, which hit in August and September.