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7 disaster relief units deployed in Texas flooding

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (BP)–Flooding in Texas — caused by as much as 30 inches of rainfall in places — has activated seven Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units affiliated with Texas Baptist Men.

Five of the units have been deployed in south-central Texas, where 13 counties have been declared as federal disaster areas by President George W. Bush.

Two other units have been activated after flooding in West Texas, and Texas Baptist Men’s two remaining units are on standby.

At least eight people have been killed and 48,000 homes have been affected by flooding from downpours in Texas since July 1, according to Associated Press reports July 8. Various rivers have crested as high as 28 feet above flood level, the AP also noted. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked President Bush to declare 17 more counties as disaster areas, CNN reported.

Jared Sellers, on-site coordinator for the Baptist relief effort, said the size of the impacted area is extraordinarily large — stretching some 600 miles from Sweetwater to near Corpus Christi. The flooding also continued to hit new areas to the north, including Brownwood and Abilene, where mobile kitchens also have been deployed.

Units have prepared about 10,000 meals since the first units were deployed July 3, primarily for evacuees in shelters and for distribution by the American Red Cross. But Sellers said he expects the meal count to rise significantly in coming days.

“As the water recedes and people start returning to their homes to deal with the damage, that’s when we’ll see the larger meal counts,” said Sellers, a member of First Baptist Church of Plains, Texas. A large portion of the evacuees are staying in motels or with friends and relatives, where they are not receiving the disaster relief meals, Sellers said.

J.B. Taylor, off-site coordinator for the relief effort, said he anticipates meal counts to reach 10,000-15,000 meals a day by July 10. “The delivery system of food to homes through the Red Cross is going to become a massive effort,” he said.

Because of the large numbers of homes affected, Sellers said efforts have already begun to begin training members of local churches to assist with the “mud-out” cleanup, chaplaincy, childcare and other relief needs. Even with other units assisting from across the country, he said, the need is much greater than existing disaster relief volunteers will be able to provide. The training will give the local volunteers full disaster relief credentials.

“We’re going into these churches and letting it become their ministry, and we’re showing them how to do it,” he said. “We’ll give them the training,and they’ll have the credibility that they need when they deal with some of these law-enforcement people.”

The disaster relief units deployed by Texas Baptist Men are:

— the state unit, at McCrellis Mall in San Antonio.

— Bluebonnet unit, at Sattler, Texas.

— Tyler unit, at Uvalde.

— Wichita-Archer-Clay unit, at Trinity Baptist Church, Kerrville.

— Tarrant unit, at First Baptist Church, New Braunfels.

— Top O Texas unit, at the Abilene Civic Center.

— Permian (Midland-Odessa) unit, at the Community Center in Brownwood.

The South Texas and East Texas units were on standby.

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