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Rescue bypassed Danville, residents say

Residents of the Danville neighborhood near Largo say they were on the wrong side of the fence when it came to getting help after Saturday's tornadoes.

Residents say the news media, medical and police attention focused on Pinellas Park and the Indian Rocks Mobile Home Park, which is separated from Danville by a fence.

Danville resident Sonjia Campbell said that when Jim Abrams' house caved in, it was neighbors, not emergency workers, who dug him out.

"No rescue workers were available," Campbell said. "Think about what would have happened if nobody dug him out. The police and the media kept talking about the "hard-hit' areas, but they didn't think about the damage that took place here."

One woman who lives in the mostly black Danville neighborhood said she called relief workers Saturday, but didn't receive help until Monday.

"If black people had been looting, (the police) sure would have been down here," Helen Monroe said. "Black people are always the last people to be helped."

Marianne Pasha, Pinellas County sheriff's spokeswoman, said officers went door-to-door checking on Danville residents as early as 3 p.m. Saturday, hours after a tornado tore the roofs off houses, overturned campers and blew out windows.

"We called Florida Power and the Red Cross on Sunday and asked them to help the people who lived there," she said. "I'm sorry if we missed some people we should have talked to, but we did the best we could. Our immediate response was to help people in heavily damaged areas."

Clearwater Red Cross Director Jim York also said help was sent to the area quickly. He said an emergency vehicle was dispatched to Danville on Saturday afternoon, although he isn't sure of the exact time. York also said emergency vehicles have been back to the area during the past three days.

The Salvation Army dispatched units to Danville about 7:30 a.m. Sunday, said Capt.

Tom Overton, commanding officer of the Clearwater office, said about Danville residents:

"I'm sorry if they feel like they were ignored. It certainly wasn't intentional on the Salvation Army's part."

But some in Danville say they never saw rescue or media attention.

"Nobody said anything about us on the news, nobody came to check on us, there were no pictures in the paper, nothing," said Annie Harris, who has lived in the area since 1939.

Campbell said she sent relief workers Sunday to help some of the older Danville residents.

"I didn't feel like I needed their help at that point. It was like being a day late and a dollar short," she said. "We're not asking for special attention, we just want to be treated equally."