ALPHARETTA, GA (BP) – The death toll in south Louisiana's unprecedented flooding has risen to 11, and at least 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. In response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) is deploying volunteers, equipment and resources to the affected area, including four kitchens in Baton Rouge, Hammond, Lafayette and Walker. The American Red Cross has requested four kitchens which each have capacity of 10,000 meals per day. All four DR teams deploying have twice that capacity. Additional support is expected given the scope of the disaster and the long-term nature of the relief work to be accomplished.
"The spring floods in Louisiana this year affected 10,000 homes, and the response duration was 80-90 days," said David Melber, vice president for Send Relief at the North American Mission Board (NAMB). "Currently we are estimating as many 50,000 affected homes and a much longer response." The four kitchens will be staffed by SBDR volunteers from Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Alabama SBDR, like many states, is preparing for the response and will be sending volunteers and at least one shower unit.
"We have multiple states getting mobilized at this point," Melber said. "The four key meal preparation areas will be located at Baptist churches, including Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Woodlawn Park Baptist Church in Hammond, The Bayou Church in Lafayette and Walker Baptist Church in Walker. Additionally, we have 16 other Baptist churches set up as defined worksites." First Baptist Church in Livingston will host the Incident Command Center. Louisiana Baptist Convention state SBDR director Gibbie McMillan is directing the state's response. Arkansas SBDR is providing an Incident Command team to help coordinate relief efforts.
"Eddie Blackmon from NAMB's SBDR team is already at the American Red Cross headquarters in Baton Rouge," said Mickey Caison, executive director for SBDR at NAMB. "There were reports of 280 road closures and some recues still occurring yesterday. This is going to be a long-term response, and the water has yet to recede." Caison said some south Louisiana residents have compared the magnitude and scope of the devastation to Hurricane Katrina. He said he expects the long-term nature of the rebuild to take years.
"We are, of course, still serving in West Virginia, and there are 5,000 homes to restore there," Caison said. "This is a marathon, not a sprint. The amount and type of responses we have already experienced this year have been taxing on disaster relief funds. People have been generous, but we will need a tremendous amount of support to address the recovery in south Louisiana." "Almost immediately starting tomorrow, we will be bringing our Emergency Response Vehicles, our ERVs, will start going into neighborhoods and distributing food and will continue that for a long time," Craig Cooper told Lake Charles' KPLC TV on Wednesday (Aug. 17). Cooper is coordinating the American Red Cross response in Baton Rouge.
"One of our partners is the Southern Baptists," Cooper said. "If you remember, after Katrina, Ike and other disasters, the Southern Baptists are contracted to set up these massive mobile kitchens. They are four or five semi-trucks, and they pop up like a kid's Transformer toy and produce the food that will feed a very large crowd." Melber and Caison will be in Louisiana late this week for a site visit as SBDR volunteers begin the task of assessment. The four kitchens are expected to be operational by Thursday (Aug. 18).
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.