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New England muds out

Disaster relief teams are mudding out flood-damaged homes around New England.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BILLERICA, Mass. | May 26, 2006

Disaster relief teams are mudding out flood-damaged homes around New England, two weeks after some of the worst flooding in 70 years.

New Hampshire, Massachusetts and York County, Maine, all received federal disaster declarations early Friday for the devastating floods. In New Hampshire, preliminary estimates from the state office of emergency management show more than 25 homes destroyed, more than 235 with major damage and another 4,800 affected across 100 communities. Officials expect that number to grow as estimates continue.

Massachusetts emergency officials estimate some 14,000 homes were affected in 44 communities in the northeastern part of the state. In Maine, at least 1,000 homes were affected by floodwater.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams are using the New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Mass., as an incident command post for their work teams in the area. Teams from Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, North Carolina and Indiana are all in town helping mud out homes in hard hit communities like Lowell and Lawrence.

"We also have 20 workers up in New Hampshire with about 60 jobs pending in that area," said Leon Branch, incident commander for the New England flood event and member of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief National Task Force Team.

Branch said the number of volunteers will grow dramatically in the next few weeks of the organization's work. Another five incident command centers are expected to be set up around Massachusetts, New Hampshire and southern Maine because of all the work to be done, he said.

Beyond mudding out flooded homes, he added that teams are also tearing out soggy carpet and drywall and removing damaged furniture. "This is more than just basement flooding," said Branch.

His Massachusetts teams are focused on homes in Lowell and Lawrence right now because many of those affected were elderly, uninsured and low income families.

The members of New Colony Baptist Church are no strangers to disaster relief work - they just didn't know they'd be doing it so close to home. Teams from the church traveled to the Gulf Coast last fall for Hurricane Katrina relief work. They are also partnered with a Katrina-damaged church in Kenner, La.

"We're surprised to be doing this type of work in our neighborhoods," said Robin McGaunn, New Colony's secretary. "It was some intense flooding here and it was so fast. We're used to harsh weather around here, but this took everyone by surprise."

McGaunn said watching the Southern Baptist relief teams is impressive and inspiring. "They are incredible, they're so organized and efficient," she said. "Our own church members are pitching in. People are interested in doing what they can and helping each other."

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Related Links:

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

New Colony Baptist Church

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