'This is one big tornado'

Hurricane damage is so severe in Florida it looks more like a tornado hit.

BY SUSAN KIM | CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. | August 16, 2004


Hurricane damage is so severe in Florida it looks more like a tornado hit.

With at least 3,000 people still staying in shelters on Monday morning -- many of them evacuees with no homes left -- relief in Florida continued in earnest.

Seventeen people have been confirmed dead Monday morning as search-and-rescue continued.

Some response groups, such as Convoy of Hope, reported they were sending truckloads of relief supplies. Leaders from faith-based and voluntary agencies were still identifying churches and buildings that could serve as staging areas for those supplies.

In addition to local churches that will serve as comfort stations, Adventist Community Services was opening a multi-agency relief distribution warehouse at the Florida state fairgrounds this week.

"We're just starting to get communications back up. We've found some great churches to serve as comfort stations," said Jody Hill, head of Florida Interfaith Networking in Disasters (FIND).

Many leaders of denominational response groups were en route to Florida and were planning a face-to-face meeting for this week.

Yet even while serving the most devastated areas, Hill echoed other responders' concerns that damage outside of devastated Charlotte County could possibly get overlooked.

"This is one big tornado that went across Florida," described Hill, adding that damage in places such as Orlando was pronounced.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC), like many other national faith-based groups, was planning to send self-sufficient volunteer teams to help with cleanup. A CRWRC representative was on the ground assessing damage on Monday morning.

Mennonite Disaster Service had three crews on the ground doing tree removal by Monday morning.

Southern Baptists had 56 units on the ground, including 12 feeding units, 26 chainsaw teams, four communications trailers, nine shower units, two laundry units, and three command centers. On Sunday the Baptists had fed 5,000 people but Baptist leaders predicted that number would quickly grow.

Hurricane survivors and responders alike were glad to see the signature Southern Baptist trailers. "I was so glad to see them," said Hill.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has assessed damage to its buildings, and had a staging area and command center set up in Port Charlotte. That denomination had 1,000 volunteers involved over the weekend.

The Church of the Brethren reported it had Disaster Child Care teams ready to be activated, and was working out logistics as to where to deploy the teams.

The Salvation Army had set up more than 50 canteen units and seven comfort stations.

Church World Service (CWS) has three Disaster Response and Recovery Liaisons who will be working in Florida. They will be assessing damages to churches, mosques, synagogues, and other places of worship.

CWS is also concerned about special needs, such as needs in migrant communities and among farm workers. Church World Service, working closely with the United Church of Christ (UCC) and with Florida social service agencies, is going to work in collaboration with FIND to determine how best to help special populations.

The American Red Cross was still housing about 3,000 people in shelters by Monday morning. AmeriCorps teams were also assisting with cleanup. Christian Contractors were already helping to repair and rebuild homes.

Hurricane survivors will not only have physical needs but emotional needs as well, pointed out faith-based disaster response leaders.

Faith-based organizations - including Lutheran Disaster Response, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, UCC, Southern Baptists, CWS, CRWRC and many others - were working closely with local churches and local government officials to identify and address mental health needs. The National Organization for Victim Assistance was also offering services.

Florida-based groups such as God's Care in Times of Crisis and Somebody Cares were also involved in helping people cope with emotional trauma in the wake of Charley.

The Florida Department of Children and Families reported it was offering mental health services in at least two American Red Cross shelters, one in Fort Myers and one in DeSoto County.

The Humane Society of the United States was responding to the needs of animals.


Related Topics:

Will storms change climate debate?

Mental health often overlooked

Why did so much rain fall?


More links on Hurricanes

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