Relief funds released for Mexico flooding

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Southern Baptists are responding to human needs in Mexico's southern state of Tabasco after thousands of people were driven from their homes in that region's worst-ever flooding.

Water stands as deep as six feet in some areas, with four confirmed deaths, after a week of non-stop heavy rain, according to regional press reports. At least 16 people were missing and feared dead after a landslide buried the community of San Juan de Grijalva in Chiapas state Nov. 5, and nine other Chiapas communities are isolated by another large landslide, according to the AFP news agency.

(Also in Mexico, on Nov. 6, a 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck the central part of the country, but initial assessments were that the moderate quake caused no injuries or serious damage.)

At least 20,000 people in Tabasco were either stranded or refusing to leave their flooded homes for fear of looters, local authorities said. About 50 people have been arrested on charges of looting stores and homes.

Southern Baptists will be supporting relief efforts conducted by local Baptist churches and the National Baptist Convention of Mexico because there are no Southern Baptist field personnel in the area, said Jim Brown, Americas area director for Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international development and relief organization.

An initial grant of $5,000 from Southern Baptist relief funds has been released to Baptist congregations in Merida, located in southern Mexico's Yucatan state, reported David Brown, Southern Baptists' regional disaster relief coordinator. Those congregations are planning a relief convoy to Tabasco once roads become passable, and the funds will be used to assemble food packets. An additional $5,000 has been released to the Mexican convention for a relief project in Tabasco being conducted by Baptist congregations nationwide.

Southern Baptist field partners are organizing a training event to help pastors offer the appropriate spiritual response to victims of the disaster.

Officials in Tabasco's capital, Villahermosa, reported Nov. 5 that floodwaters had begun to recede and drinking water had been restored in parts of the city, according to AFP. Schools had been authorized to reopen in areas of the city that are not under water. About half of Tabasco's 2.1 million people have been affected by the flooding.

In the Dominican Republic, hard hit in late October by Tropical Storm Noel, an initial grant of $5,000 has been released to help provide food packets for families there, according to David Brown, who arrived on the island Nov. 6 as part of an assessment team. The funds will help the national Baptist convention in undertaking short- and long-term relief strategies. Besides food packets, initial relief efforts may focus on providing bedding and some clothing. Because so many families lost their homes, a rebuilding initiative may be undertaken there as well.

More information on plans for relief work in the Dominican Republic should be available after the assessment team completes it work.


Mark Kelly is a freelance writer based in Gallatin, Tenn.

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