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Baptists help after Ky., Texas flooding

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Kentucky Baptist Convention disaster relief is deploying assessment teams, shower units and mud-out teams to Pike County after torrential thunderstorms caused flash floods to pour down into eastern Kentucky hollows and creeks the night of July 17.

The floodwaters took five lives, washed some 200 homes and trailers off their foundations, damaged roads and bridges and destroyed 100 vehicles.

Hardest hit were the Olive Hill, Zebulon and Regina communities located seven to eight miles north of Pikeville, where floodwaters reached five feet in some places. Four to seven inches of rain fell from 4 p.m. Saturday until 1 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Local officials called the Pike County flooding the worst in years. More than 1,000 lost their electricity and some 12,000 were without running water when a major water intake plant was damaged. As many as 25,000 local residents on the Mountain Water District System were placed on a boil-water advisory until further notice. Most power and water has since been restored.

“We’re still doing assessment,” said Coy Webb, state disaster relief director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “I feel sure we’ll do some mud-out, but with all the homes completely washed away, there may not be as much mud-out to do.”

The disaster relief teams are working out of Meta Baptist Church in Pike County, and assistance from other states may be requested when assessment is complete, Webb said.

“Two big storms came through and dumped a lot of rain in a short period of time,” he said. “In eastern Kentucky, there’s no place for water to go but down these knobs and into the hollows.”

Since so many of the Pikeville roads were washed out, Webb said Southern Baptist Disaster Relief will not mobilize any feeding units because delivery is impossible. Instead, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army will provide MREs (meals ready to eat).

Meanwhile in Texas, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief work continues in the wake of Rio Grande River Valley flooding caused by Hurricane Alex on June 28 and a second tropical storm two weeks later.

Some 300 disaster relief volunteers have been deployed from Texas and New Mexico for mud-out work in both Texas and across the border in Mexico, according to Jim Richardson, state disaster relief director for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC). A laundry unit from Louisiana was also deployed in Laredo.

“Mud-out in the Eagle Pass area is winding up,” Richardson says. “We’re still involved in mud-out in Laredo, and will be operational in Rio Grande City when the floodwaters go down in a week or so.”

Richardson said the Rio Grande River is still flooding from Laredo south.

The heaviest flood damage occurred on the Mexico side of the border, where Baptist Global Response (BGR) coordinated the response of partner churches from Texas and Mexico, Richardson said.

In Mexico, 350 volunteers from SBTC, BGR, First Baptist Church of Brownsville, Texas, and local churches in Mexico have cleaned up 16 sites and provided meals of beans and rice and water for more than 14,000 people. There have been 133 decisions for Christ.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) is a partnership ministry of the state Baptist conventions, the North American Mission Board and the Southern Baptist Convention. The assets SBDR brings to disaster events include 88,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 2,000 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild, and generators.

Through mid-July, SBDR activity across the United States during 2010 — including the response to the Haiti earthquake — has included the preparation of more than 143,000 meals, 18,400 “volunteer” days, 45,000 ministry contacts, 11,500 Gospel presentations and 1,442 professions of faith.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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