Dozens missing in Texas floods


DEL RIO, TX (August 31, 1998) -- At least 14 people are known to have died in the devasting floods that

hit the Del Rio, TX when the remnants of Tropical Storm Charley stalled

over the region on Aug. 23-24 and sent the San Felipe Creek boiling over

its bank.

President Bill Clinton has declared the Del Rio area a major disaster

and response has been swift from across the faith community. Church World

Service (CWS), Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) and the United Methodist

Committee on Relief (UMCOR) were among the early responders.

More than 12-inches of rain fell on normally drought-stricken Del Rio. A

wall of water caused by the downpour destroyed hundreds of homes and

damaged many more. As the water finally drained away from the town late in

the week, local officials published a list of more than 150 "missing"

people. Many of the "missing" were found staying with relatives or friends,

but as of Monday (Aug. 31) officials still did not know the whereabouts of

about 40 people.

"This (situation) is worse than anything I have seen related to flooding

because of the loss of life here," said Bishop Ray Owen of the Southwestern

Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church during a tour of the region.

Some of the missing are feared to have been swept by the current down

the Rio Grande River, according to Norman Hein, a regional disaster

facilitator with CWS.

The swath of destruction includes the original settlement of Del Rio

over a mile wide and four miles from the Rio Grande River. "The rushing

water swept through over 1,500 single family homes, apartments and mobile

homes pushing in its flow a lifetime of remembrances," Hein said. In other

sections of town,

the water rushed to the Rio Grande creating rivers where normally there are

low water crossings.

"Today, some streets have piles of carpet at the curb, and front and

backyards that resemble a huge community garage sale. But most streets are

vacant, everything gone and residents searching for something to remember."

Predicting a long recovery, Hein said of the 937 single family homes

damaged, 630 are homes of low and very low-income persons. Although FEMA

will provide initial grants, few of the residents are expected to qualify

for low-interest government loans for rebuilding. "The community will need

substantial donations of time and materials to complete the task of

recovery," Hein added.

The city has established a coordinated materials donation center and

volunteer phone line at (830) 775-3551. Building

materials, including: plywood, sheet rock, shingles, and other roofing

materials are needed.

The interfaith response to the flooding in Del Rio is being coordinated

through the Bethel Center, an ecumenical emergency assistance program.

The center, located in De Rio, sustained water damage from the flood but

hoped to open on Tuesday after making emergency repairs funded by CWS. Some

300 CWS health and clean-up kits were distributed to area survivors. LDR

and UMCOR haved also provided grants for local

churches to assist individuals affected by the high waters. In addition,

UMCOR has shipped electric generators to assist survivors.

Updated August 31, 1998

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