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RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue announced Wednesday that seven North Carolina counties have been approved for federal disaster assistance as a result of damage from Hurricane Irene.

I urged our federal partners to move quickly on this request for assistance, and they did, Perdue said. We re grateful for that rapid response. Our fellow North Carolinians who suffered losses during this storm need to start rebuilding their lives now not tomorrow.

Perdue requested the disaster assistance Monday and, on Tuesday, spoke at length with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napoliltano about the need to expedite approval.

Napolitano was visiting North Carolina to view hurricane damage, along with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Perdue also urged Vilsack to move quickly on assistance for North Carolina farmers whose crops were damaged.

The disaster declaration approved by President Barack Obama covers: Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell counties.

This step will help residents in those counties pay for uninsured damages caused by Hurricane Irene.

The declaration came after Perdue spent her third day assessing emergency response and visiting with local officials to discuss the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene.

Additional counties may be added later as local, state and federal teams complete preliminary damage assessments.

Thousands of families and business owners have suffered because of this storm, Perdue said. They are resilient. They are strong. They are determined to rebuild, and we will do everything possible to help.

The presidential declaration enables the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide low-interest loans or grants to hurricane survivors to help them repair their homes, pay medical costs, rebuild their businesses and begin the long recovery process.

The federal grants and loans are intended to help disaster survivors restore their primary residences to safe, sanitary and a functional condition. Secondary residences are not eligible for federal assistance.

Local, state and federal emergency management teams will conduct damage assessments throughout the week while crews continue working to restore power, clear debris and open roadways.

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