Washington, DC (BWA)--The world relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance has pledged initial sums of US$10,000 to the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship (CBF) for relief assistance to victims of Hurricane Irene.
The Atlantic storm, which had reached the level of a category 3 hurricane affected islands in the Caribbean including Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos; and large sections of the eastern United States including the states of New Jersey, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
At least 55 persons have died as a result of the hurricane and damage has been estimated in the billions of dollars to businesses, homes, roads, bridges and other structures.
Everton Jackson, executive secretary/treasurer of the CBF, reported "some countries experienced greater levels of devastation than others." The Turks and Caicos Islands "experienced more flooding than infrastructural damage" while "some Islands in the Bahamas were badly hit." On Acklins Island in the Bahamas, 90 percent of structures have been damaged, and the local church was destroyed. "It is clear," Jackson claimed, "that urgent help is needed for the affected areas and people.... Their immediate needs are for water, tarpaulins, food, and building materials, among other things"
A number of Baptist churches served as shelters. Dozens of displaced persons took refuge in the Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Los Guananitos, including all of the 60 residents of Kilómetro 56, located northwest of Santo Domingo, the country's capital. The village was fully evacuated due to the rising levels of the Guananito and Haina rivers caused by heavy rainfall and high winds.
Baptist World Aid, the BWA's relief arm, is liaising with Baptist leaders in Baptist state conventions in Virginia, North Carolina and other affected areas in the US, as these groups have local networks of churches in cities and towns.
The North American Baptist Fellowship, which along with the CBF is a regional fellowship of the BWA, activated its Disaster Response Network, sharing information on Baptist response and assisting in collaboration with several groups.
Baptists in Virginia placed feeding, recovery, communications, crisis care, chaplaincy and other units on alert as the storm bore down on the US east coast.Feeding units were opened in hard-hit communities in King and Queen County, Virginia, by which the American Red Cross distributed about 7,000 meals per day, as well as in the parking lot of the Virginia Baptist Resource Center in Richmond for distribution in several counties south of the city that were still without electricity. Several churches were used as response sites.
North Carolina Baptist Men deployed recovery units at four locations on or near the North Carolina coast in Greenville, Manteo, New Bern and Williamston, including the setting up of feeding units.
Texas Baptist Men received requests to provide disaster relief in North Carolina, and leaders were expecting to be called on to serve in Vermont, which suffered its worst flooding since 1927, as a result of Irene.
"Let us remember to pray not only for our Caribbean neighbors who have been affected but our brothers and sisters in the United States," Jackson said. "Whatever assistance you can give will be highly appreciated."
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