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Relief underway in flooded WV

BY HENRY BRIER | CHARLESTOWN, WV | July 18, 2001

Cleanup efforts in parts of southern West Virginia ravaged by floodwaters earlier this month are ahead of schedule and  should be completed within two months, officials report.

Authorities originally said the effort would take more than four months but because of a large widespread response, the cleanup should be done within six weeks, said Cindy Hart, a spokeswoman for Wyoming County emergency services.

"We're really trying to reach out to these people and help them," said Roseann Berry, executive director of the Fayette County chapter of the American Red Cross.

Fayette and Wyoming counties were among 20 southern West Virginia counties declared federal disaster areas because of flooding that occurred July 9. Two people were killed and thousands were forced from their homes.

Hart said the flooding caused up to $1.5 million in damages to Wyoming County roads. It damaged about 1,600 homes, 160 businesses, 25 churches and four fire stations, she reported. There are 11 shelters still operating, she added.

"There are whole entire homes destroyed and the contents are sitting out on the sidewalk," Hart said. "Some roadways are completely destroyed. Bridges are washed out. It's absolutely devastating."

She said cleanup efforts include removing scattered debris, some of which collects on sidewalks and river banks, backs up water flow and blocks roadways.

The debris includes pieces of mobile homes, trees, vehicles and even some homes removed from their foundations and pushed sideways, Hart said. Trucks are passing through towns to haul away the debris.

Efforts also include ensuring all people have somewhere to sleep if they were displaced.

"We're making sure that everyone gets back into a home," she said. Trailers and modular homes are being brought into the area.

Berry said services are available for the elderly and women with young children, many of whom have difficulty cleaning up their Fayette County homes.

There are problems with people who still want to live in their homes that were destroyed or badly damaged, she said.

"We're trying to help these people who don't want to leave their homes," she said. "Any service we can provide."

Workers are passing out mosquito repellant and spreading lime, which dries up wet areas and helps fight bacteria, she said.

She said teams are assembled to provide additional assistance.

"We are very fortunate for quick response emergency teams," she said. "Teams  register that they are willing to help, and many are going out and tearing up carpets. They're on it. They're out there doing it. "

Hart said the disaster part is over, and efforts to provide basic needs will continue. Hundreds of people natiowide have telephoned wanting to donate clothing, furniture, cleaning supplies and food.

Agencies providing assistance include the National Guard, the Department of Highways and the Army Corps of Engineers.

"They have been working day and night for the last week," she said.


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