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WV hit by more flooding

BY HENRY BRIER | MULLENS, WV | July 28, 2001

"Our little city was just devastated. It's gone. For someone reason our church was blessed (spared). I consider that a gift."

—Father Jack Reich

The southern part of the state again fell victim to

flash flooding Thursday night, the third round of heavy rains since

June that have killed five people and hindered recovery efforts in

the poorest counties of West Virginia.

The new flooding washed away five more bridges and flooded areas

along the Big Coal River and temporarily cut off the towns of Pax and

Mount Hope according to emergency management officials. Thursday's

flooding hit the same areas damaged in severe flooding in early July.

"The devastation has been incredible," Major Ron Raymer, who is

coordinating relief efforts for the Salvation Army. I've seen mobile

homes twisted like pretzels around tree trunks, homes ripped in half,

and cars at the bottom of river beds. This is the worst disaster West

Virginia has ever seen."

Seventeen mobile feeding units have served or distributed 4,000

meals, 39,000 gallons of water, and 17,000 cleanup kits.

Church World Service is also among the organizations that have poured

relief into stricken communities. So far, CWS has sent shipments

valued at $5,502 which included 100 clean up kits, 200 blankets, 50

school kits, and 150 health kits to Clinch Valley Community Action

Center, a church-supported social services center in North Tazwell,


A shipment of 2000 health kits, valued at $24,000, managed by Seventh

Day Adventist Community Services is being distributed in isolated and

rural areas of West Virginia.

"Our little city was just devastated. It's gone," said Father Jack

Reich of St. John the Evangelist church in Mullens. "For someone

reason our church was blessed (spared). I consider that a gift."

Mullens is located in Wyoming County, one of 20 counties in southern

West Virginia under federal emergency declarations as a result of the

heavy rain and subsequent flooding.

Other counties severely stricken include Fayette, Raleigh and

McDowell. Thus far, more than 2,000 houses have been destroyed or

severely damaged, according to Richard Krajeski, a disaster resource

specialist with the Church World Service/Emergency Response Program.

The five deaths were all drowning-related, according to emergency

response officials in Charleston, W.V. Twelve people are nursing

injuries, and nobody is reported missing.

Thursday night's heavy rains were the third significant amount to

fall upon southern West Virginia since June, when the first deluge

occurred. Early in the morning of July 8, cloud bursts and flash

floods brought on severe flooding.

Representatives of the faith community have formed the West Virginia

Inter-religious Task Force for Recovery and Development which is

oriented toward helping with the intermediate and long-term relief,

said Doug Goebel, a spokesman for the West Virginia Council of


He said other responsibilities will be resuming work where primary

agencies have left off, helping people with housing and assisting

with mental and spiritual health.

"There is very good cooperation between all religious groups,"

Krajeski said. "Folks are starting to organize for recovery and

redevelopment. They are repairing and rebuilding homes, addressing

the economic conditions in that part of the state and planning grants

to work on sustainable and economic development."

Krajeski and Goebel said a major part of the recovery effort is

officials are looking to implement both short and long-term

sustainable development plans to attempt to rescue the failing local

economy and decrepit conditions.

They said officials are pursuing this effort because they view the

flooding as a signal indicating they should do what they can to

improve the local quality of life.

"We heard community leaders saying this not only a disaster but an

opportunity to do something positive for the home community,"

Krajeski said. "We need to develop some sustainable industry. People

aren't talking about going back to normal because normal isn't very


Goebel said the high priority is helping economic redevelopment in

preparation for the long term.

He said such efforts are important because it will symbolize a marked

improvement as compared to how southern West Virginia was beforehand.

"That area was almost a disaster area prior to the flood," Goebel

said. "One thing this is going to do is help us focus on this area."

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