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7,000 homes impacted in NJ, NY

Families in need after nor'easter.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BOUND BROOK, N.J. | April 20, 2007

Severe flooding that hit parts of New York and New Jersey after record-setting rainfall last week destroyed 83 homes and caused major damage to more than 2,600 others, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported Saturday.

Another 4,267 homes had minor damage, it said in its latest assessment report. Seven deaths were blamed on the storm in the two states, FEMA said.

The flooding which struck the East Coast and New England left hundreds of families in need.

In Mamaroneck, N.Y., St. Thomas Episcopal Church was helping more than 300 displaced families. Mark Hummell of Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of New York said food and water was needed, as well as basic items such as diapers. Temporary housing was also needed.

Both Hummell and Joann Hale of Church World Service said some of the affected families are undocumented workers.

"Those persons are in a lot of need and yet do not qualify for other aid available from the government," Hale said.

Hummell said his organization was working with Episcopal Relief and Development to get funding for the flood response there. Mamaroneck is about 25 miles north of New York City.

Severe flooding also affected numerous communities in New Jersey, including Bound Brook, Paterson, Little Falls, and Lumberton.

More than 150 people were being sheltered in Bound Brook Presbyterian Church due to damaged homes and lingering high water. The church was feeding the families and will share a worship space with the local United Methodist Church until housing can be found for the families.

Bound Brook was devastated by flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and a long-term disaster recovery agency remains in place to address current disaster needs.

The Rev. June Stitzinger-Clark, disaster response coordinator for the Greater New Jersey Conference of the United Methodist Church, said many of those affected were low-income families, which was also true for the majority of the flooded towns.

Hale said Bound Brook responders estimated that close to half of the affected families there were undocumented.

"The need is going to be great there," Hale said.

Stitzinger-Clark said an emergency grant was requested from the United Methodist Committee on Relief to provide some support. She said she expected flood cleanup kits will be required next week as the water recedes and more of the damage is assessed.

Many of the flooded towns have seen repeat floods in the past three years. In Lumberton, water was reported in the first floors or basements of at least 50 homes. Burlington County officials estimated the flood did at least $7.7 million in damages to the public infrastructure alone.

"These families have been devastated repeatedly," Stitzinger-Clark said. "We're very concerned for these impacted families."

Hale said she was hopeful that the previous successful long-term disaster recovery work in New Jersey will continue in the aftermath of the current floods.

"The faith community is coming together and will be able to respond the same way that they have in the past," Hale said. "Coordination and collaboration have always worked well in the New Jersey community."

Hale, a disaster response and recovery liaison for Church World Service, has been in touch with people across New England, New York and New Jersey to be aware of emergency needs.

FEMA representatives were on site in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey to conduct preliminary damage assessments. Many of the states have declared state emergencies and were seeking federal disaster declarations.

Estimates of the damage throughout the region were in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In Massachusetts, members of the state chapter of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters said they were relieved that the flooding does not appear to have caused as much damage as floods in 2005 and 2006.

Parts of Maine and New Hampshire suffered flooding as well. Local, state and federal government workers continued to assess damages from the powerful nor'easter.


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