People helping people in flood-ravaged area

BY SUSAN KIM | KINSTON, NC | September 30, 1999


KINSTON, NC (Sept. 30, 1999) -- Blue skies finally greeted residents

of this disaster-savaged state Thursday, but not all of the rivers

have crested, preventing many residents from returning home to claim

personal belongings.

In what is being called the worst disaster to ever hit the state, the

one-two punch of Hurricane Dennis and Floyd -- less than three weeks

apart -- dropped so much rain on eastern North Carolina that nearly

every home along miles and miles of usually placid rivers, have been

damaged or destroyed. Some officials are predicting as many as 50,000

homes have been affected.

Just as disaster response organizations were beginning to set relief

plans into motion earlier this week, the skies opened up again,

dropping as much as eight more inches of rain in some places. Heavy

rain on Tuesday and Wednesday meant streams rose again, further

damaging some communities and adding others to the disaster rolls.

But counteracting the devastation in North Carolina are countless

examples of people helping others in need.

A Kinston church, in the midst of nearby swirling waters this week,

took the faith-concept of healing to a new level as it became a

temporary medical clinic for residents who were cut-off from

traditional providers.

In scenes reminiscent of medical corps movies, members of the

Southwood Memorial Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) helped

create a temporary helicopter landing pad on the church grounds and

added equipment including a portable x-ray machine to treat those

needing medical attention.

When the entire southern portion of the Eastern North Carolina

community was cut off by floodwaters, blocking access to a medical

clinic four miles away, the church began serving as a hospital -- and

more than 160 people were treated by doctors and emergency medical

technicians working from the church, for everything from heart

attacks to snake bites.

"Our area was flooded to the point where we became an island," said

Martha Daughety, who was volunteering with her fellow church members

to make meals for the medical personnel, or Special Operations

Response Team (SORT), on site.

Located in Lenoir County, one of North Carolina's hardest-hit areas,

the church will continue to serve as a hospital for as long as it's

needed. "The SORT teams bring everything they need with them," said

Daughety, "even MREs [Meals Ready to Eat]. But we want them to have

hot meals, so we make sure they're getting two a day, plus a sandwich

for lunch."

Like so many North Carolinians, Daughety wonders what will be next.

"So many people are afraid of what they'll find when they get back

into their community. I was lucky. My house was okay, and that's why

I'm here helping other people. That's what life is all about."

Faith-based response groups are magnifying such efforts. "We've sent

truckloads of drinking water, cleaning supplies, brooms, mops, food,"

said Tala Dowlatshahi, communications officer for the United

Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Church World Service is also

sending clean-up kits for survivors.

UMCOR, CWS, Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) and Presbyterian

Disaster Assistance (PDA) have sent assessment teams and trained

response personnel to the hardest-hit areas in the state as well.

Every bit of such help will be needed. Many North Carolinians are

still in a state of emergency as waters recede, leaving thousands

without homes, loved ones, and basic living necessities.

In Greenville on Wednesday, survivors applying for aid at the Red

Cross shelter were being given a number and told to return next

Thursday. Others who had applied days earlier waited outside for

hours for their numbers to be called.

"The eastern part of the state is clearly facing a major

humanitarian, economic, and ecological crisis," said Johnny Wray, who

coordinates a Week of Compassion giving program for the Christian

Church (Disciples of Christ).

Some 2,000 people still living in shelters are depending on emergency

officials, faith-based response organizations, American Red Cross,

Salvation Army, and other community groups whose personnel and

economic resources continue to be stretched by the magnitude of the

disaster.

The Southern Baptist Convention, Red Cross, and Salvation Army report

they are serving

more than 60,000 meals a day.

With 47 people dead, parts of communities still under water, some

7,400 residences confirmed as damaged or destroyed, as many as 30,000

more lost or damaged, coffins unearthed by floodwaters, and rivers

remaining above flood crest, people are living in an extended state of crisis.

Federal agencies are still working to collect propane and fuel tanks

floating in the Tar River from Rocky Mount to Tarboro. The Tar,

Neuse, and Lumber rivers are expected to remain above flood stage for

a few more days.

Roads are closed in 615 locations by flooding and washouts, and more

than 40 bridges are also closed. Sixteen dams have failed in the

state as well.

The state estimates agricultural losses at $634 million and forestry

losses at $156 million.

"State officials have called Hurricane Floyd the worst disaster to

ever hit North Carolina," said Stan Hankins, associate director for

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. "Among those affected,

Hispanic farm workers were especially hard hit. Not only did they

lose their meager possessions, but also their livelihood." CWS sent

blankets and clean-up kits Wednesday to help farm workers.

The Presbytery of New Hope in Rocky Mount, N.C. is seeking bilingual

volunteers to work with staff members who will communicate with those

in need, design a response plan, and work with churches to implement

it. Volunteers should be willing to spend two weeks in the area,

Hankins said.

The Presbytery of New Hope is establishing service centers in local

churches throughout the flood zone, where food, water, toiletries,

and cleaning supplies will be stored.

Adventist Community Services (ACS) is also managing a multi-agency

warehouse in Rocky Mount, N.C. in cooperation with the Federal

Emergency Management Agency. ACS is also operating seven collection

centers for donated goods throughout the mid-Atlantic region and

plans to open more this week.

"We are helping 3,000 to 5,000 people here at our Rocky Mount site

and as more people start the clean-up process we expect the numbers

to increase," said Mike Ortell, ACS disaster coordinator for North

Carolina.

Many denominations and other organizations also sent damage

assessment teams and plan to send volunteer teams to help with

clean-up.

Monetary donations remain the best way to help hurricane survivors,

according to response leaders. "The effects of Hurricane Floyd will

be long-lasting," said Hankins. "Please remember the congregations

and communities of eastern North Carolina in your thoughts and

prayers throughout the coming months."

President Clinton has declared nine states -- in addition to North

Carolina -- federal disaster areas as a result of Hurricane Floyd,

including Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New

York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Posted Sept. 30, 1999


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