W.Va. flooding prompts Southern Baptist response

by Mike Ebert and Joe Conway, posted Monday, June 27, 2016 (2 years ago)

GREENBRIAR COUNTY, W.Va. (BP) -- Heavy rains on June 23 brought historic flooding to West Va., claiming at least 24 lives and 100 homes. Search and rescue continued on Sunday (June 26), where state and federal officials declared disaster areas.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders and volunteers have been working in the wake of the storm to aid survivors and comfort those facing the loss of family and loved ones. Several state SBDR units were mobilized Saturday (June 25).

“The strength of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is our people,” said David Melber, vice president of Send Relief for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “State SBDR leadership, local volunteers and church members, as they always do, were among the first to respond to the needs of the people in West Virginia.”

Sixteen people died in Greenbrier County, at least 15 of them in the town of Rainelle, according to the Associated Press (AP). Greenbrier is the only county where people were believed to still be missing Sunday.

NAMB’s SBDR executive director Mickey Caison reported that the coordination of aid and volunteers began before the rain stopped. Long-term recovery will follow the immediate disaster response, Caison said, noting that the incident command center, feeding and flood recovery operations for the response will be located in the Lewisburg, W.Va., area.

The command center will be staffed by SBDR volunteers from West Virginia, Kentucky and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV). SBDR volunteers are also already responding to flooding in Virginia and Maryland.

NAMB is deploying a semi-truck with bottled water, disinfectant used to treat homes after flooding and other resources needed to support the effort. Flood buckets, filled with basic necessities for immediate flood recovery, are also on board.

The West Virginia Disaster Relief incident command and feeding unit will be housed at First Baptist Church of Fairlea in Ronceverte, W.Va. The American Red Cross has requested two SBDR mobile feeding kitchens be ready for five-day deployments. An SBCV mobile kitchen will be set up at Heritage Baptist Church in Elkview, W.Va. Teams were in route Saturday to set up the mobile kitchens.

Caison said he expects flood recovery teams to be in full response by today or tomorrow, which will include volunteers from Florida, Missouri, South Carolina and North Carolina. Local conditions will call for flexibility.

"Roads destroyed, bridges out, homes burned down, washed off foundations," Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill, told AP. "Multiple sections of highway just missing. Pavement just peeled off like a banana. I've never seen anything like that."

The disaster declarations provide people in the affected counties with individual assistance for emergency medical support, housing and a number of other immediate needs. 

Sunday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began accepting applications for aid from residents in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties, the three hardest hit areas in Southeast West Virginia, AP reported.

One of the biggest threats to homeowners after a flood is the dangerous mold that starts growing in the home. Southern Baptists have dozens of “mud-out” trailers loaded with pressure washers, disinfectant, buckets, shovels and other equipment needed to treat a home after it has been flooded. Mud, silt, damaged belongings and other debris must be removed along with any sheet rock damaged by the flooding. The process cannot start until flood waters recede and the drying-out process has begun.

Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or https://donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”

NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.

Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers -- including chaplains -- and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

Mike Ebert serves as executive director of Public Relations for the North American Mission Board. Joe Conway serves as marketing content coordinator for NAMB.
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