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Dozens missing in Texas floods


Volunteers spent Saturday and Sunday helping Del Rio, TX, dig out from

the worst flood in the city's history, hoping that they will find that the

nearly 80 missing people are simply staying with friends outside of the


At least 14 people are known to have died in the devasting floods that

hit the area early last week when the remnants of Tropical Storm Charley

stalled over the region 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, Lutheran Disaster Response and the United Methodist Committee on

Relief (UMCOR) were among the early responders.

At least 12 inches of rain Aug. 23-24 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 Saturday morning officials still did not know the whereabouts ofabout 80 people."This (situation) is worse than anything I have seen related t

o 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.

One area of search is a pyramid of debris about 14 feet tall, according to

according to Norman Hein, a regional facilitator with CWS. Some of the

missing are feared to have been swept by the current down the Rio Grande


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."

Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, across the border, also received devastating damages.

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.

Posted August 29, 1998

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