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Assistance sought for OH residents

BY PJ HELLER | OHIO | September 2, 1998

OHIO (September 2, 1998) -- Assistance for Ohio residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by

flooding this summer is being organized by the Interfaith Response to Ohio Disasters

(IROD).

"I think we're just about there," said Jim Ditzler, a disaster response

consultant for Church World Service.

The interfaith response group, including more than a dozen denominational

and secular organizations, has been meeting on a regular basis since floods

struck the state beginning June 24. At least 12 people died in the storms.

More than 1,000 homes were seriously damaged or destroyed and more than

1,000 received minor damage.

At a meeting Sunday (Aug. 30), the interfaith group formally approved plans

to hire a director and, if necessary, an administrative assistant. At the

same time, it set in motion plans for a case team to review requests for

funding. Case studies are being conducted by the American Red Cross,

Lutheran Social Services and United Methodists.

Ditzler said he hoped that everything would be in place so that funds could

start to be disbursed within two weeks. "Finally," he said. "It's been a

long time."

The interfaith has $11,000 available with additional monies expected from

various denominations. He said requests for those funds were mounting.

The IROD meeting comes one day after the deadline for Ohio residents to

apply for state and federal disaster funds. Twenty-two counties in Ohio

have been declared federal disaster areas from the storms which ravaged the

state between June 24 and July 5.

One of the areas hardest hit by that flooding was the tiny town of

Byesville in Guernsey County. That village of 2,500 people, still

struggling to deal with the late June flooding, was struck again last week.

This time, it was hit by wind gusts of 80 to 90 miles per hour which felled

trees, tore roofs off houses and blew in windows.

Witnesses said the town resembled a war zone. No injuries or deaths were

reported and no homes were destroyed.

Gov. George V. Voinovich declared a state of emergency for the county on

Tuesday (Aug. 26), the day the wind storm hit the town.

Ditzler said most of the damage was cleaned up in the days immediately

after the storm. Damage to homes and other buildings was expected to be

covered by insurance, he said.

Damage to people's psyche was another matter. People were asking the Rev.

Patricia Reiter of the Main Avenue United Methodist Church why two

disasters had befallen the town in 60 days.

"We're not being punished," she told them. "We're good people whose faith

has been put to the test."

Residents in St. Louisville in Licking County and in Marion County were

also put to the test the same day as high winds, possibly short-lived

tornadoes, hit the area. At least four homes were reported destroyed in the

St. Louisville area; hail and high winds caused an estimated $300,000

damage in Marion County.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Ohio Emergency Management

Agency, meantime, closed down their offices in Cambridge and Caldwell on

Saturday (Aug. 29) as the deadline to apply for state and federal funds

passed. More than 7,800 people have called FEMA to register for disaster

relief, the agency reported.

FEMA said that as of Aug. 20, it had issued more than $6.9 million in

temporary disaster housing assistance grants to 3,956 eligible Ohio flood

victims. The U.S. Small Business Administration had approved more than

$16.2 million in low-interest disaster loans. The state's Individual and

Family Grant Program has approved $3.1 million for disaster-related

necessary expenses and serious needs not covered by other assistance

programs, officials reported.

Posted September 2, 1998


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