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FEMA Concludes Regional Officials Can Handle Bertha

July 12, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Emergency Management Agency took its national response team off alert Friday, leaving regional officials to handle Hurricane Bertha.

The national team was released from alert status because the agency felt the teams already in place could deal with whatever damage Bertha causes, said Bill Tidball, FEMA’s associate director of response and recovery.

``That means the hurricane doesn’t warrant having a national team down there,″ said FEMA spokeswoman Ann Barre. ``It’s terrific news. The damage is not as bad.″

A 100-member emergency response team from Denton, Texas, was sent to North Carolina to help with cleanup and recovery efforts, said Gary Jones, the region’s team leader. The team planned to begin assessing the damage Saturday.

South Carolina’s team leader, John Swanson, said officials there felt the worst of the storm was over for them and that the state had suffered ``minimal impact.″

In other developments Friday:

_The Red Cross had 45 emergency shelters open in the Carolinas and 85 on standby. About 7,000 people were living in the shelters.

_The Defense Department set up a receiving and staging area at Fort Bragg, N.C., for disaster supplies, equipment and vehicles.

_Three disaster medical assistance teams and a medical support unit were on alert and three teams were put on standby.

_Operations centers in Atlanta, Philadelphia and FEMA’s Washington headquarters remained on 24-hour duty.

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