Mexico reels after Emily

Communities across northeast Mexico are still reeling after Hurricane Emily.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | July 25, 2005



"Most of the sorghum plants were blown down and destroyed."

—Susan Hellums


Communities across northeast Mexico are still reeling after Hurricane Emily drenched the area last week. By Monday, the remnants of tropical storm Gert were soaking some of the same areas.

Small fishing towns along the Gulf of Mexico were severely damaged by Emily. On Monday, the Methodist Border Friendship Commission (MBFC) loaded trailers with food, water, blankets and medical supplies for the devastated communities across the border.

The MBFC covers four districts of the United Methodist Church in Texas and Mexico along the border.  After Emily, representatives from MBFC met with the local Mexican departments of health to coordinate the assistance and to also determine the needs.

The best way to help after Hurricane Emily is to send monetary donations, said Susan Hellums, the border area missions coordinator for MBFC. Due to difficulties moving supplies through border checkpoints, monetary donations allow the staff to buy needed supplies in Mexico.

Hellums said it will take significant time to rebuild towns like Carboneras, where she visited last week to see the damage firsthand. “They’re going to need a lot of help,” she said. “A lot of homes were blown down and are now just piles of rubble.”

She added that communities not only lost valuable fishing boats and supplies, but the farms nearby also took a hit. Many families survive by growing and selling sorghum.  “Most of the sorghum plants were blown down and destroyed,” said Hellums.

Other farmers told Hellums they lost livestock due to injuries from flying debris. She said tin roofs ripped from homes were now strewn across fields. Most of the damaged areas are still without power because the storm knocked down miles of power lines.

Hellums said they will continue the coordination into the long-term recovery stage, when she said volunteers will be very necessary. She added that some Methodist rebuild teams have already signed up to help rebuild homes.

Interfaith recovery groups already exist across south Texas, and said they will step in once the emergency response levels off and the long-term recovery begins. “We pick up where others leave off,” said the Rev. Laura Brewster, secretary of Faith Communities for Disaster Recovery (FCDR) and associate pastor at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in McAllen, Texas.

Brewster said most of south Texas managed to avoid serious damage from the hurricane this time, but that would not stop them from helping other nearby communities in Mexico. FCDR was formed after severe flooding struck the Rio Grande Valley in the fall of 2003.

According to Don Jones, disaster recovery coordinator for the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, other churches across south Texas were preparing flood buckets and health kits as needed. Church World Service Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Heriberto Martinez is also in the area assessing damages and needs.


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