The severe tornado outbreak stretching across the South is being called the worst in four decades. There were 210 deaths in Alabama alone, and the death toll in all the impacted states is rising as search and rescue teams comb the impacted areas. The death toll today stands at 308 in 7 states. Power outages are affecting 1.5 million people, making communications difficult.
During this emergency phase, it is too soon for Brethren Disaster Ministries to send in volunteers for repair or rebuilding work. Communities will first need to assess the damage and determine the unmet needs.
Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is responding to a shelter at the Belk Center Park Recreation Building in Tuscaloosa, Ala. As of this morning there are over 600 residents at the shelter, with probably at least 100 children. Six CDS volunteers are arriving today with more volunteers on standby ready to go as needed. CDS also is monitoring the Missouri tornado and flood situation and has offered services in the Poplar Bluffs area.
Brethren Disaster Ministries staff are monitoring the situation following the tornadoes that plowed through North Carolina on April 16. We plan to have a representative at a meeting of the North Carolica VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) late next week to discuss long-term recovery, including repair and rebuilding work for storm survivors. Staff are also monitoring the other storm and flood ravaged areas across the Midwest and South.
In addition, Brethren Disaster Ministries has been collaborating with Virlina District and Shenandoah District as they get set up to do minor repairs after the Pulaski County, Va., tornadoes that struck on April 8. Volunteers from these districts will begin doing this work next week. As the community establishes a long term recovery group, we may be asked to help with major repairs and rebuilding work.
There was a small tornado that touched down in Lebanon County, Pa. Atlantic Northeast District disaster coordinator Bob Eisemann has contacted Palmyra and Annville Churches of the Brethren to see if they have volunteers to help with cleanup, or anyone affected in the congregations.
Naturally, good-hearted people want to know what they can do. It is stressed that unaffiliated volunteers are not encouraged right now, due to safety issues and damaged infrastructure. It is most helpful to make financial contributions that can be used where they are most needed. Clothing is not being requested. Please do not send clothing or any other material donations that are not specifically requested.
Church World Service (CWS) is appealing for Emergency Clean-Up Buckets to assist flooded homeowners with cleaning and sanitizing their homes. Instructions for assembling the buckets can be found at www.churchworldservice.org/kits_emergency .
The work of Brethren Disaster Ministries may be supported with gifts to the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120 or give online at https://secure2.convio.net/cob/site/Donation2?df_id=1360&1360.donation=form1&JServSessionIdr004=pnnf2d0gk2.app246b .
As always, the prayers of the Christian community for the victims and the responders are needed, welcome, and appreciated.
— Jane Yount is coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries.