Human needs are staggering in NC

BY SUSAN KIM | WHITAKERS, N.C. | September 24, 1999

WHITAKERS, N.C. (Sept. 24, 1999) -- "All we see are people in need --

elderly people, families with children, people with diabetes, women

who were working as waitresses at minimum wage and don't have a job

to go back to."

The scenes Judye Thomas sees in her role as relief coordinator at the

Franklinton Center, a United Church of Christ facility, are repeating

themselves thousand-fold across North Carolina. Some 20,000 people

are still living in shelters.

"We are just surrounded by this disaster," Thomas said of the worst

human, agricultural, and environmental disaster ever to hit the state.

Damage estimates in North Carolina -- already nearly incomprehensible

-- are growing, with at least 37 people dead and 30,000 homes and

18,000 square miles impacted by flooding. Agricultural losses are

expected to exceed $1 billion, and the Federal Emergency Management

Agency (FEMA) confirmed that 6,000 hogs and more than 945,000 poultry

were killed by the hurricane.

Major crops ready for harvest disappeared in a sea of water and mud.

A five-million gallon mercury holding pond continues to threaten the

Wilmington water supply, and the threat of disease looms large.

"I can't tell you how awful the standing water is here," said Thomas.

"We've got dead hogs, hog waste, dead chickens, dead dogs, dead cows,

and dead people in this water."

Many people whose homes are now underwater didn't live in flood

plains and thought they had no need for flood insurance. "What will

these people do?" said Thomas. "There are women here who were hourly

wage earners at restaurants that are under water. Their homes are

under water. Their jobs no longer exist. Even with government

assistance, there is going to be tremendous need here for a long


The best way to help is to make a cash donation, said Thomas, along

with many other response workers. Church World Service (CWS) has

issued an initial appeal for $100,000 from its member denominations

to organize and support local interfaith relief and recovery

programs, with plans to issue a much larger appeal once needs are


Through its Week of Compassion giving program, the Christian Church

(Disciples of Christ) has provided $6,000 toward the initial CWS

appeal, and is also planning to help coordinate work groups.

"You can help through your prayers for those whose lives have been

made chaotic because of this storm," added Gil Furst, director of

Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR). "Your prayers are as powerful as

any wild hurricane winds or raging, flooding rivers."

LDR has made $10,000 available for emergency grants to provide

immediate financial assistance to survivors, and an initial grant of

$20,000 will be used to employ an LDR coordinator and volunteer


Furst also said that, in the long-term, volunteer teams will be

needed to help people clean up their homes, however, "at the moment

no volunteers can be used because of the high floodwaters and the

unsafe health conditions."

CWS is also sending clean-up kits and health kits to the hardest-hit


The Salvation Army is operating 30 mobile kitchens, and the Southern

Baptist Convention eight kitchens.

Adventist Community Services (ACS) opened a donated good warehouse

and reception center in Rocky Mount, a community virtually submerged

by the flood. But severe flooding is still hampering relief efforts,

said Larry Buckner, national disaster response coordinator for ACS.

"Our distribution centers are on standby while the water subsides,"

he said. "Many roads are covered with water or washed out." FEMA

estimates that 200 roads remain closed by flooding and washouts.

Many other response groups have responded with funds, trained staff,

and specific material donations, including the Christian Church

(Disciples of Christ), Convoy of Hope, HonorBound, LDR, Presbyterian

Disaster Assistance, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Volunteers

In Mission, local ministerial associations, Salvation Army, and

American Red Cross.

But slowly receding water and the threat of disease is preventing

both an accurate assessment of the staggering need and an immediate

response. "Some response won't be able to start until next week or

the week after," said Roger Mattox, disaster relief coordinator for

the Assemblies of God, which is distributing material resources and

coordinating work teams.

"The frustrating thing is knowing that there are still bodies out

there in houses, in vehicles, that they just can't get to."

Some rivers won't crest for several more days due to recent rainfall

from Tropical Storm Harvey. Federal agencies are still delivering

300,000 pounds of ice a day and have delivered 115 truckloads of


Debris removal is likely to pose a problem in coastal communities hit

by Hurricane Floyd, according to a survey by Langley and McDonald

engineers, surveyors, planners, and environmental services.

"Imagine, all of a sudden, within a day or two, having to confront as

much waste as you had anticipated over half a decade," said Kenneth

Dierks, head of Langley and McDonald's environmental department.

"Many communities have only two to three years worth of landfill

space available at any one time."

Besides the size of a community and the severity of the storm, time

of year is a factor in the amount of debris a hurricane generates, he

added. "A storm coming in late October, the end of hurricane season,

would generate less debris than one that hits in August, when foliage

is at its peak."

Posted Sept. 24, 1999

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