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Shelters house hundreds in WV

BY HENRY BRIER | CHARLESTON, W.V. | July 12, 2001


"Everyone is still in a state of shock, trying to figure out where to begin."

—Phil Sanders, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Mullens


Shelters in southern West Virginia are supplying flooded out residents with water, basic food and blankets after floods killed two people and displaced thousands from their homes.

According to early assessments, as many as 1,500 houses may have been destroyed, Kristina Peterson, a Church World Service disaster specialist, reported Wednesday.

"I can tell by their voices that they've lost hope," said Phil Sanders, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Mullens. "Everyone is still in a state of shock, trying to figure out where to begin. There are people who have lost literally everything, their homes and everything in their homes."

Downtown Mullens, located in Wyoming County, is covered with up to six inches of mud, flood waters shattered windows and doors, and the water level in some areas is 18 feet higher than where it normally is, Sanders said.

He said people are looting goods in flooded houses and stores, and they are helping themselves to possessions afloat in floodwaters in Wyoming and McDowell counties. McDowell County is the southernmost point in the state along the Virginia border, and north of it is Wyoming County.

Flood-related deaths in southern West Virginia have risen to two. A four- year-old Fayette County girl and a 64-year-old Wyoming County woman both drowned on Sunday.

Thirty-five people reported missing in Wyoming County have all been located, according to Cindy Hart, an emergency services spokeswoman who normally works in a central West Virginia county not afflicted by flooding.

"We have never even attempted damage assessment in dollars," Hart said, noting the county is under a boil water advisory. "We're doing the best we can."

She said the county is operating nine active shelters and a distribution center, and it is accepting tractor trailers delivering supplies and donations from all over the country.

Almost 500 tetanus shots have been administered, and health officials ordered 1000 more.

Ambulances from several different counties are standing by in Wyoming County, where one-fifth of the 25,000 residents have been affected by flood damage, she said.

Officials from the National Guard, military police and state police are attempting to keep away looters, she said.

The demolition of condemned buildings in southern McDowell County is to begin this weekend, Peterson said. Some of the buildings presently house three families illegally living in condemned structures, she added.

Peterson said people also are living out of automobiles, not necessarily their own. Some people are sleeping in cars that have been carried away by flood waters.

"It is very difficult to receive news," Sanders said. "There is no postal service. There is incredible damage."


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More links on Flooding

 

Related Links:

• Recent WV flood photos are posted here.: McDowell County Flood: July 8, 2001

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