BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)--One of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in the nation's history left at least 290 people dead in six states April 27 as Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers -- already on the ground in some locations -- scrambled to assess damaged church buildings and assist in disaster relief in the midst of power and telephone outages, and rubble.
In Alabama alone, more than 200 people died in 16 counties, and the governor estimated as many as half a million to a million people were left without electricity.
Tennessee was the next hardest hit with a reported 34 deaths, followed by 32 in Mississippi, 14 in Georgia, five in Virginia and one in Arkansas. Entire neighborhoods were leveled in the affected regions.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers in Alabama already are assisting emergency response personnel in an effort to find survivors.
The Weather Channel called the outbreak the deadliest since 1974.
Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist Convention, said Thursday, "This is our Katrina," according to The Alabama Baptist newspaper.
Mel Johnson, director of disaster relief for the Alabama Baptist Convention, said disaster relief volunteers "have been asked to assist in search and rescue efforts" -- a first for the Alabama volunteers.
Johnson was one of about a dozen Baptist state convention disaster relief leaders who participated in a Thursday morning conference call coordinated by the North American Mission Board. State representatives shared about damage in their states while others offered resources and volunteers when needed.
"Entire communities disappeared," Johnson said. "Many hospitals, police departments, local fire departments all sustained damage. At one campsite campers were picked up and swept into a lake.
"We have teams that started responding yesterday," Johnson said. "They have had to cut their way into these areas." Read More