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Long-term recovery still active in OH


CAMBRIDGE, OH (Jan. 3, 1999) -- Six months after massive flooding struck southeast Ohio, Don O'Sullivan is trying to identify survivors who still need assistance.

He knows residents flooded out of their homes

in the June 1998 floods face tough times, but are trying to go through it

alone. It's an admirable quality, notes O'Sullivan, coordinator for

Interfaith Response to Ohio Disasters (IROD), but it's a choice that makes it

tough for assistance to reach people who may be living without clean

basements or functioning bathrooms.

"All of us feel there's a lot more need out there," O'Sullivan said.

"Unfortunately, it is very difficult to identify and locate."

Storms on June 24 sent Ohio area streams into 26 Ohio counties, some with heavy Appalachian influence. At least 12 people died in the storms. More than 1,000 homes were seriously damaged or destroyed and more than 1,000 received minor damage with damage estimates running as high as $130 million.

Those strong Appalachian qualities often includes mistrust of the intentions of government and outside programs to help disaster survivors.

In one instance, the bathroom section of an elderly man's house in Kimbolton washed away. When IROD learned of this man's plight, they arranged for a volunteer work crew to replace the lost bathroom.

But O'Sullivan is certain there are dozens, if not more, of homes where mud hardens in the basement or mold cakes the

walls because people cannot remove it and have just accepted it.

"They don't want to be beholden to anyone," explained O'Sullivan.

"Unfortunately, as these people have aged, they can't do what they would

like to do."

Sensitive to this issue, some IROD materials intentionally fail to promote

the idea that government or church groups are behind the recovery, said Jim

Ditzler, a disaster response consultant for Church World Service.

"We have found a lot of people have put (recovery assistance) out of their

minds as if there was no help available," he said.

"I think it's more difficult than any of us have actually expected," O'Sullivan said of the recovery. But churches and faith-based

organizations were strong in the summer months assisting people repair or

rebuild homes, Ditzler said, and the organization hopes to attract more remodeling crews beginning in the spring.

"We will continue to press for working with church pastors to let them know

in their own congregations that help is still available," he said.

IROD's budget for the projected two-year recovery is about $50,000 and has

received tremendous supports throughout the communities it serves, said

O'Sullivan, who was coordinating volunteer efforts for the American Red

Cross before coming to IROD, an interfaith response group comprised of more

than a dozen denominational and secular organizations.

After the flooding recovery is complete, O'Sullivan hopes IROD will remain

in place for future recovery efforts and to be a safety net for people

who feel they have exhausted all of the official recovery channels.

"Nobody is focusing on these people who for any number of reasons, have

fallen through the cracks and are not yelling and screaming," he said.

Posted Jan. 4, 1999

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