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Thousands impacted in Washington flood

BY HENRY BRIER | WASHINGTON, DC | August 16, 2001

District of Columbia resident and flood survivor Nikki DeJesus gladly

welcomed volunteer efforts to help remove damaged and destroyed

furniture and carpets from her basement Wednesday afternoon.

DeJesus said she had been away from her home Saturday when flash

floods deluged neighborhood homes. She wasn't aware of the potential

for damage until she arrived home and a neighbor asked, "Did you get

through that?"

"As we all know, God helps those who help themselves," Washington

Mayor Anthony A. Williams said at a Wednesday afternoon press

conference at Mount Bethel Baptist Church after assisting volunteers who were removing furniture from a damaged home.

The nation's capital endured its worst flooding in more than 50 years on Friday and Saturday, after four inches of rain fell in two hours, officials said.

American Red Cross officials estimate they will provide assistance to at least 700 families whose homes were damaged.

A spokesperson from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said Thursday afternoon that initial assessments indicated more than 625 buildings were damaged. Some of the structures house more than one family.

"There was a lot of water in a short period of time," said Merrit

Drucker, Neighborhood Service Coordinator for the DC government. "The

water volume was so great."

Most of the damage has been reported in the northwest section of the city. The intersection of Flagler Place and U Street was the epicenter of the flashfloods because the lowlands resembled a small river at the peak of the rains, Drucker said.

Drucker, who participated in volunteer efforts to remove damaged

goods, toured the region Wednesday afternoon, observing damage the

floods left behind.

The basement of U Street resident Assane Konte, who helps operate a

West African dance company, was emptied of exotic West African

regalia, including artwork, clothing, costumes, handmade drums and

other instruments.

Konte's friends were cleaning out the basement, which accumulated up

to three feet of floodwater, while the equipment was on the sidewalk

beneath sunrays that hopefully would help salvage some of the

priceless treasures.

"I'm trying to save as much as I can," Konte said. "I'll have to send

everything to Senegal in West Africa to be repaired."

Williams declared a state of emergency on Sunday and President George W. Bush, declared the District of Columbia eligible for major federal disaster relief on Thursday.

Peter LaPorte, director of the Washington Emergency Management Agency

said the city will help dispose of damaged goods left along roadways

and sidewalks, as well as repairing catch basins.

"I think it will reach a peak on Saturday," LaPorte said. Speaking of

volunteers, he added, "I think we'll have 1,000 people. We're very

optimistic."

A northern Virginia woman and her two daughters came to Washington to

help with the volunteer effort after watching television reports

about flood damage. The mother said such dramatic television

reporting pulled on her heartstrings and prompted her involvement,

which her children echoed.

"They need help," said Sara, a 9-year-old. "They can't do it

on their own." Her older sister echoed the sentiment: "People should

help each other," said Lindsay, a 13-year-old.

DeJesus, who said she had originally asked her neighbor, "Get through

what?" said she appreciates the help provided in emptying furniture

and carpets from her unfinished basement, work she has been doing

since Saturday.

She said the damage estimate is unknown, but floodwaters left behind

trash and a mildew stench that permeates her house.

"It will take everybody a little bit of time to recover," DeJesus said.


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