FEMA to Use Trailers to House Tornado Victims

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Some of the thousands of trailers purchased by the Federal Emergency Managemenet Agency in 2005 after hurricanes tore through the Gulf Coast may finally be put to use to help victims of another disaster.

Officials said the 7,200 trailers stored at the Hope airport will "definitely" be used in Arkansas and Tennessee as housing for victims of last week's tornadoes.

The decision comes after requests by state officials and Arkansas' congressional delegation, which has criticized the trailers in the past as a sign of federal ineptitude after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

David Maxwell, who heads the Ark. Dept. of Emergency Management, said his office told FEMA immediately after the storms that the victims would need some of the trailers.  FEMA administrator R. David Paulison said on a tour of the damage last week that the agency would prefer putting storm victims in rental property, although he acknowledged that could be difficult in rural communities.

Maxwell said the number of trailers released would depend on the number of people who called FEMA and requested help, as opposed to simply requesting a blanket number.  He said FEMA already hired a contractor to prepare and possibly transport the trailers to those in need.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)