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TX response grows

BY SUSAN KIM | SAN ANTONIO, TX | July 10, 2002

"The prayers of God's people are far more powerful than these roaring flood waters."

—Gil Furst

More rain loomed for Texas even as flood response efforts grew in the wake of the second major disaster to hit the state in less than two years.

Forecasters said a low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico has the potential of dumping more rain on areas that already received more than 30 inches.

Early damage assessments from the American Red Cross indicated more than 48,000 homes were damaged by flooding that devastated wide areas this week and last week. Damage assessments were continuing this week.

President Bush has approved federal aid for 13 counties. Gov. Rick Perry requested that 17 more counties be considered for federal declaration.

Faith-based groups were helping to meet people's emergency needs and planning for long-term support as well.

"Piles of soggy possessions are already appearing on street sides through the neighborhood of New Braunfels, where people are just now returning from their evacuation," said Gil Furst of Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR).

LDR is coordinating its work through Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS). LSS, like many other faith-based groups in the area, also responded to damages in the wake of Tropical Storm Allison, which hit Houston particularly hard.

As people coped with their losses, many were able to have meals because of the efforts of The Salvation Army and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units affiliated with the Texas Baptist Men.

Trained crews from these two groups have prepared tens of thousands of meals for flood survivors.

The Salvation Army is also distributing cleaning kits to people that contain brooms, mops, squeegees, and, cleaning products.

Jared Sellers, on-site coordinator for the Baptist relief effort, said the size of the impacted area is extraordinarily large -- stretching some 600 miles from Sweetwater to near Corpus Christi. The flooding also continued to hit new areas to the north, including Brownwood and Abilene.

Furst and other response leaders suggested ways people across the nation could help those in Texas affected by the floods: prayers, cash contributions, and volunteering.

"The prayers of God's people are far more powerful than these roaring flood waters," said Furst. "Your prayers will sustain those who are now returning to mud-filled houses, destroyed neighborhoods, lost treasured items. And they will sustain those who are responding, providing a helping hand and words of faith and encouragement."

Cash contributions will also directly help survivors, he said. "Your contributions will provide the resources needed to assist with immediate emergency needs, cleanup provisions, long term rebuilding supplies, as well as spiritual/emotional counseling."

Currently only local volunteers are needed but for long-term recovery volunteers teams will be needed to rebuild homes.

National faith-based disaster response groups as well as local long-term recovery committees were gearing up for a coordinated response. "We certainly anticipate a significant response will be needed to assist community and interfaith relief and recovery efforts," said Johnny Wray, who coordinates Week of Compassion, a giving program administered by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

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