Damage grows in flooded South

BY SUSAN KIM | Houston, TX | June 11, 2001

Faith-based groups are

increasing their support in the South as assessments show growing damage

in the flood-stricken South.


fatalities have climbed to 20, and the water hasn't receded. Twenty-six

inches of rain fell in parts of Texas and Louisiana, and the northern

and panhandle regions of Florida saw flash flooding and storm damage as


Water still hasn't receded from many roadways -- covered by more than 20

feet of water earlier this week -- in Texas and Louisiana.

President Bush declared flood-affected parts of Texas and Louisiana federal

disaster areas earlier this week.

The offices of the Union Baptist Association in Houston were completely

destroyed, said Director of Missions Tom Billings. The office wasn't


"It will cost about $250,000 to replace everything," said Billings. "All

of it has been totally destroyed."

Floodwaters measuring five feet rose up around the Union Baptist

Association building over the weekend, putting pressure on the plate

glass windows that lined it. When the glass could no longer stand the

pressure, the windows burst, sending a torrent of water through the

building, carrying with it furniture, computers, fax and copying

equipment, and office supplies, shooting them out of the building and

into a nearby ravine.

"It pulled everything off the walls, picked up almost everything in the

office, and then pushed it out," Billings said. "The only thing we've got

left is about 20 reams of paper. That's it.

"The most important part of the office is still left though -- the

staff," he added. "I praise God we haven't lost any of them."

The Baptist General Convention of Texas is sending a letter to all

Baptist churches in Texas asking for monetary support for the association.

Meanwhile, said Billings, "we just have to start all over."

In Louisiana, Velma Watson of Terrebonne Readiness and Assistance

Coalition (TRAC) reported that initial assessments were continuing

but confirmed damage was major. "We've got a lot of it," she said.

"We can't even get into some areas yet."

One characteristic of this disaster, Watson said, was that many of those

whose homes have been damaged are in areas that had not before been

affected by flooding. Many of those whose homes were damaged in the

Lafourche area, for example, did not have flood insurance because their

homes were on a "100-year" flood plain, Watson said.

"A lot of them are real depressed."

TRAC is convening an unmet needs committee meeting Thursday that will

include representatives of the faith community.

At the request of TRAC, Church World Service (CWS) is overnighting 100

cleanup kits to affected areas in Louisiana.

A CWS disaster response facilitator is traveling to Texas later this week

and will be working with local interfaith officials and church leaders

in Texas to assess needs for a long-term recovery program in the Houston

area. Another CWS volunteer consultant will travel to Louisiana.

A team of trained volunteer Disaster Child Care (DCC) workers will

travel to Houston to provide childcare in American Red Cross service

centers. DCC, a program affiliated with the Church of the Brethren,

trains people from all faiths in how to care for children in a post-

disaster situation.

Florida did not escape storm damage, with northern Florida and the

panhandle receiving nearly 10 inches of rain in 24 hours. Several counties

reported damage to homes and businesses.

If people want to help flood survivors, cash donations are the best way

to help, according to responding groups.

In Houston's medical district, the main disaster relief unit of Texas

Baptist Men is preparing daily meals for at least 15,000 people.

The Salvation Army is the state's designated emergency shelter provider.

America's Second Harvest activated its disaster assistance team, which

is establishing contact with local food banks to determine the need for

non-perishable foods.

At least 20,000 homes in Texas and Louisiana were reportedly affected by


Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) is also responding through Lutheran

Social Services of the South, and through local and regional synods. LDR

will distribute emergency funds through local churches to assist flood

survivors. LDR representatives also plan to assess needs and help develop

a long-term response.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is sending $10,000 to local

representatives to help meet emergency needs. PDA is also considering

sending funds to Louisiana after the Presbytery of South Louisiana

completes a damage assessment.

PDA reported that volunteer work teams will likely be needed to assist

with cleanup and repair.

Week of Compassion, a giving program coordinated by the Christian Church

(Disciples of Christ), sent a grant of $15,000 to begin meeting

immediate needs.

Both the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Christian Reformed

World Relief Committee (CRWRC) reported they were also contacting

congregations and emergency management officials in the worst-hit areas

to try to assess needs.

"It is too early to say exactly how much damage has been done, said Bev

Abma, CRWRC disaster response administrator, "but we expect significant

involvement, especially during the long-term recovery. This is the first

time in 13 years that a storm of this magnitude has struck during the

first week of hurricane season."

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