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More SC floods seem 'endless'

BY SUSAN KIM | CONWAY, S.C. | September 30, 1999

CONWAY, S.C. (Sept. 30, 1999) -- With six inches of rain in parts of Horry County over the past two days bringing more flood warnings

and rising rivers, residents of this town -- and throughout parts of

the Carolinas -- are living what seems a repetitive, extended nightmare.

The Waccamaw River in Conway crested yesterday at 17 feet, causing

several homes to flood for the second time after Hurricane Floyd's

devastating sweep up the coast.

A federal-state disaster recovery center opened in Conway, and emergency personnel and residents alike sandbagged once again in an attempt to save homes and businesses that weren't already inundated by Hurricane Floyd.

Volunteers are working in double shifts to meet relief needs from Hurricane Floyd's devastation while at the same time trying to prevent more damage. "We've been housing teams of firemen in the church," said Lillian Thompson on Wednesday. The ember of the Jamestown Baptist Church in Conway added, "Some have gone, then new ones have come."

"It's been pouring since this afternoon," added Mamie Thrower, a member of the Juniper Bay Baptist Church.

In the downtown section of Conway, houses dotted along the Waccamaw River had the worst flooding. And, since roads have re-closed, relief supplies can't get through.

"We've been conducting daily collections of relief supplies such as food and water," said Bill Neely, pastor at the Clover Presbyterian Church in Charleston, SC. "But the roads were closed again today."

The Salvation Army is concentrating its efforts in the state in

Conway, and has established a central receiving warehouse in Myrtle

Beach for collecting non-perishable food, cleaning supplies, personal

hygiene items, bottled water, paper products, baby care items, and

ladies underwear. No clothing is being accepted, and the Salvation

Army -- and many other faith-based response organizations --

continues to accept monetary donations.

The Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Convention, and American Red

Cross are still dispatching mobile feeding units in areas where water

has yet to recede.

The situation in both South and North Carolina is far worse than is

being reported or understood, said Bill Ebener, director of ministry

and peace for the South Carolina Christian Action Council.

"People are just now able to get back into the area," he said. During

the peak of flooding, 50,626 South Carolinians were living in

shelters, and now the Red Cross is operating one shelter with about

20 occupants.

The South Carolina Christian Action Council will be working to

develop a long-term interfaith response in the state. "But the

flooding is pretty localized here -- in several counties as opposed

to a wide swath across the whole state, which happened during

Hurricane Hugo."

"So we'll be helping to coordinate local churches, and assist them in

working together," he added.

One goal of the council is to help manage material donations, goods,

and supplies which are already coming in. "The things that are given

sometimes can be just as much of a problem as the disaster itself,"

he said.

Ebener was referring to what disaster officials often term "the

second disaster" -- when truckloads of used clothing or other

inappropriate donations arrive on the scene, posing problems with

storage, shipping, and distribution.

The council, by working with emergency management officials and the

Red Cross, works to determine specifically what's needed before

collecting donations. Even then, disaster response leaders maintain

that the best way to help hurricane survivors is with a cash donation.

Currently response officials are also discouraging volunteers from

traveling to the area unless they have been specifically requested.

However, once sanitary conditions, safety, and road accessibility

improve, Ebener said that there will be a need for long-term

volunteers.

"Right now there are so many health risks associated with the flood.

This is a very different disaster than wind damage."

"This has been totally devastating."

Nine states besides South Carolina have been declared major disaster

areas as a result of Hurricane Floyd, including Connecticut,

Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina,

Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Some 3,200 people have already registered for federal assistance in

South Carolina, and federal-state Disaster Recovery Centers opened in

Charleston, Conway, Georgetown, and Myrtle Beach.

In Charleston, where Hurricane Hugo wreaked havoc in 1989, residents

are thankful that their community avoided Floyd's full strength. But

emergency response personnel also report that Charleston suffered

less damage because it is a Project Impact community, meaning it was

chosen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be part

of a national initiative to build more disaster-resistant communities.

Through Project Impact, residents, businesses, and local officials

have been working together to protect themselves and reduce risk.

Since 1988, FEMA has spent $20 billion to help repair and rebuild

communities after disasters.

But for those whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by

the hurricane or subsequent rains, applying for Federal assistance

has become a priority. Registrations for federal assistance in states

hit by Floyd totaled 62,157 as of Sept. 26.

In North Carolina, the hardest-hit state, more than 40,000 people

have registered.

The number of declared states is the most for an Atlantic coasthurricane since 1996, when six states were issued major disaster declarations in the wake of Hurricane Fran.

Posted September 30, 1999


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