DEL RIO, Tx (Oct. 1, 1998) -- Bottled water is still being handed out to
local residents, more than a month after a devastating flash flood killed
as many as 15 people here.
The late August flood nearly wiped out the historic San Felipe area of
the city and caused more than $34.5 million in damages. Nine residents were
killed and six more are missing and presumed dead.
It is the worst flood to strike this west Texas city of 34,000 in more
than 50 years. Tropical Storm Charley dumped about 20 inches of rain in the
area on Aug. 23 and 24. Raging waters damaged or destroyed at least 937
A new response organization is moving ahead with plans to rebuild the
flood-ravaged neighborhoods, but officials caution it will take time to
restore the community.
"The disaster has passed, but the rebuilding is just in its infancy and
is going to take a long time,"Beth Eby, Del Rio's city manager, told the
San Antonio Express, this week.
The water problems that are continuing to plague the city are caused by
dirt, not bacteria, and city officials are hoping they will not have to go
to the expense of replacing the entire filtration system.
As the concentrated disaster response effort in Del Rio entered its
second month, the Texas community has begun the long process of recovering
deadly floods month brought by Tropical Storm Charley.
Bethel Center of Val Verde Inc., a local ecumenical community relief
agency, helped establish Del Rio Recovers, as part of a long-term recovery
In September, more than 50 people representing 14 denominations
and 22 congregations attended a meeting with government relief and local
health officials to discuss what assistance is available so that pastors
could report it back to their members.
"The response from the church community is just phenomenal here. It's a
cooperation and a sense of working together that I rarely see in
communities," said Hein.
More than a third of the 2,000 families affected by the floods are
expected to have long-term needs that government assistance will not meet.
To help meet this need, the new long-term recovery organization is
developing a "Friends" program to recruit and train individuals from local
congregations who will adopt families and help identify government and
other assistance available.
Pastoral care and case management in Spanish and English is needed in Del
Rio as well as rebuilding and reconstruction in low-income areas. CWS has
already sent some 300 health and cleanup kits to Del Rio.
Recovery will extend past the coming winter, and Hein and others are urging
the "winter Texans" -- those who take winter vacations in the state -- to
volunteer for a week or two. The idea will be circulated among northern
"If we could get one-tenth of the winter Texans, we would have a marvelous
crew of people," Hein said.
Volunteers can call (830) 774-8603 to lend help for cleanup and repair.
Various sites, including church lots, are being designated as parking for
potential winter volunteers. Some will also provide electricity, water and
sewer connections for people traveling in campers or recreational vehicles.
LDR and LSS hope to bring volunteers via its Operation Can Do, a youth
program which targets school breaks as a time for young people to be
volunteers. Hein said the organization also has provided Bethel Center with
a computer system for accounting and word processing tasks.
Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS) is sending coordinators to inspect the
area, said MDS Region 3 Director Vernon Miller. The organization's
volunteers likely will be involved in cleanup and repair, he said.
Earlier in the month, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) sent a
semi-trailer load of cleaning materials, including pressure washers, flood
buckets and bleach, said Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR's Disaster Response manager.
Christian Reform World Relief Committee (CRWRC) has sent a work team to
The Salvation Army and American Red Cross are serving meals for volunteers
and distributing water. Some 100,000 gallons daily are transported to Del Rio.
Working with these groups has been Grace Community Church. The
interdenominational church opened its facility, after floodwaters hit the
More than 100 volunteers staffed the makeshift shelter in Del Rio's largest
church. The flooding marked the first time Grace Community operated as a
shelter. The 600-member congregation has since developed a more organized
disaster plan if it's needed again.
Menchaca echoed Hein's comments about the community coming together. It's
an example of people just helping others in need.
"I believe that when people see a need, they leave their own personal need
on the side," he said. "They put aside their religious biases and come
together to help out everybody." -- George Piper contributed to this story.
Updated Oct. 1, 1998
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