Floods response set as OH is hit by new storms

BY PJ HELLER | OHIO | August 31, 1998


OHIO (August 31, 1998) -- Efforts to form an interfaith organization to assist flood victims

throughout Ohio are continuing to move ahead as faith-based organizations

map strategy and look at how best to address the long-term needs of the

stricken region.

Representatives from seven of the 22 counties declared federal disaster

areas were on hand Sunday, July 19, at Emmanuel United Church of Christ in

Zanesville for the latest in series of weekly meetings. Among those

attending was Ellis Wykstra, the FEMA Region V facilitator for Church World

Service.

A proposal for an unmet needs committee was accepted in principal "with the

idea that there will be long-term recovery needs and that a group should be

in place to handle those," said the Rev. Terry Marsh of the First Christian

Church of Uhrichsville who chaired the meeting.

Marsh said he hoped to expand the interfaith group to include more

faith-based organizations from within the stricken counties. The Ohio

Council of Churches is being enlisted to help contact those organizations.

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),

American Red Cross and Church World Service and three ministerial associations

have been among those attending the meetings, Marsh noted.

As cleanup efforts continued under hot and humid conditions in southeastern

and central Ohio, residents in the western part of the state had to cope

with more storms.

On July 19, violent storms and at least one tornado swept through western

Ohio near Lima with 80 mph winds blowing off roofs, toppling trees and

cutting power to more than 25,000 people. One person suffered minor

injuries.

Damage estimates from the flooding in southeastern and central Ohio, which

began June 24, have been set at $130 million. More than 1,000 homes were

destroyed or seriously damaged and another 1,152 received minor damage.

Twenty-nine schools were affected with damages placed at more than $1.3

million. At least 12 people died in the storms.

More than 47,000 tons of debris have been removed from the

stricken counties.

Gil Furst, director of Luthern Disaster Response, toured some of the

stricken areas on July 15.

"The stench of decaying vegetation filled our nostrils," Furst reported.

"We saw fields with destroyed crops, piles of debris in front of houses,

flooded roads and washed-out bridges. Cleanup efforts continue, and

volunteers are needed."

Furst said financial grants for relief efforts were being made available

through representatives of the Aid Association for Lutherans, the Lutheran

Brotherhood and Lutheran Social Services of central Ohio, the southeast

Ohio Synod, and the Ohio District (LCMS).


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