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CRWRC responds to needs in Joplin, Mo. tornadoes

Response team sent to assess needs following tornado

GRAND RAPIDS, MI | May 24, 2011

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) is assessing disaster response needs in Joplin, Missouri, today in collaboration with federal and local disaster agencies to help devastated families and determine priorities in the hard-hit town of 50,000 residents after a Sunday evening tornado.

“This is the worst spring storm season we’ve experienced in the U.S. in many years,” says Art Opperwall, a program manager with CRWRC Disaster Response Services (DRS). “Last night’s deadly tornado in Joplin is the most recent in a series of devastating tornadoes in several states, in addition to communities in the central U.S. that are flooded, or under threat of flooding, from extraordinary rains.” In the last month, the agency has responded to similar disasters in Sanford, North Carolina, and Birmingham, Alabama.

Sunday’s tornado left a half-mile swath of total destruction through Joplin’s downtown area, causing power disruptions, fires, gas leaks, and communications outages. One of the city’s two medical centers was directly hit, evacuated, and a triage unit was set up on the hospital grounds this morning.

President Obama has committed support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and National Guard, public safety, and search-and-rescue personnel have been sent into the area from surrounding states to assist. Reports from the National Weather Service, which issued a tornado warning 10-20 minutes before the twister touched down in Joplin, say that the strength of the tornado, which has yet to be determined, was in part obscured by rain.

CRWRC-DRS director, Bill Adams is in the Kansas City area this week attending a conference of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD). Opperwall and other CRWRC staff will join Adams in Missouri tomorrow. Members of the group are making plans to travel to Joplin later in the week to assist with damage surveys and response plans. Ed and Helen Mulder, regional managers for the organization in the Missouri area, are monitoring the situation along with FEMA and other disaster response partners.

“With last night’s tragedy at the top of our minds today, and a more active than usual hurricane season predicted this summer and fall, committing to help communities like Joplin, Missouri, long-term is all the more important,” Opperwall continues. “Devastating disasters like this one call for not only an immediate response, but for reconstruction and rehabilitation that could potentially last several years.”

CRWRC-DRS is seeking $1 million to respond to spring storms in 2011. To donate, go to www.crwrc.org/donate and choose “Spring Storms 2011,” or call 1-800-55-CRWRC with your credit card gift. Checks to CRWRC-DRS, designated “Spring Storms 2011” in the memo line, can be mailed to CRWRC, 2850 Kalamazoo SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49560-600.

Members of the Press wishing to arrange an interview with CRWRC-DRS program manager Art Opperwall, call cell 616-915-9303, or call CRWRC media contact Beth DeGraff at 1-800-55-CRWRC or cell 616-648-7821.

To learn more about CRWRC’s current response to Spring Storms 2011, or other disaster response programs, go to www.crwrc.org.

CRWRC is a non-profit agency of the Christian Reformed Church in North America,ministering to people in need around the world with disaster response, development, and justice since 1962. All donations are tax deductible. Member, Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA) and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

Media Contacts:

Art Opperwall, CRWRC-DRS program manager, cell 616-915-9303

Beth DeGraff, CRWRC media contact, cell 616-648-7821 or 1-800-55-CRWRC

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