Lutherans Continue Disaster Relief Work in Southeast, U.S.

Dec 05, 2002 01:54 PM EST

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Lutheran Disaster Response, a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), continues cleanup work and damage assessments in Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee after storms and tornadoes brought death and destruction Nov. 10.

"There were 72 tornadoes and more than 200 severe storms across a thousand-mile weather front," said the Rev. Gilbert B. Furst, director, Lutheran Disaster Response.

"Church World Service reports the death toll remains at 36. Seventeen confirmed in Tennessee, 12 in Alabama, five in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania and another in Mississippi. Federal disaster declarations have been granted to Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee," he said.

In Alabama, Lutheran volunteers are working with other faith groups to arrange housing for volunteers, Furst said. Early estimates indicate more than 600 homes have been affected, including more than 250 completely destroyed and more than 200 severely damaged. "The whole northwest corner of the state is affected with 29 counties eligible for federal assistance," he said.

Columbus, Miss., was "hit hard," Furst said. Initial estimates indicate that more than 800 dwellings have been damaged and 136 destroyed. The Mississippi University for Women, Columbus, "has sustained damage in the tens of millions" of dollars, he said.

Federal disaster declarations were granted to five counties. Lutheran Disaster Response is working with a local interfaith organization in Columbus to organize recovery work, he said.

In Ohio, 696 houses in 17 counties have been affected with more than 75 homes either totally destroyed or severely damaged, Furst said. Staff of Lutheran Disaster Response in Ohio is working with LCMS Ohio District and ELCA Northwest Ohio Synod staff to coordinate Lutheran congregational relief efforts.

In Tennessee, 894 homes have been damaged, 37 destroyed plus 16 mobile homes damaged and 40 destroyed, Furst reported. Sixteen counties were granted presidential disaster declarations and are eligible for federal assistance.

In Mossy Grove, Tenn., at least 100 buildings were either completely destroyed or severely damaged. Furst said a local resident of Mossy Grove described the town as a "very small, very poor community. There's going to be a lot of under-insured folks here who've lost everything," he said.

"The magnitude of the Nov. 10 disaster is difficult to grasp. The clean up efforts are enormous, the unmet needs will be massive and the recovery efforts long term," Furst said. "The numbers will continue to change. The primary focus at this time is northwestern Alabama, east-central Tennessee, northwestern Mississippi, and north-central and northwest Ohio," he said.


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