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Iowa Baptist unit to aid tornado victims

PARKERSBURG, Iowa (BP)–Iowa Baptist disaster relief volunteers were scheduled to begin feeding operations Tuesday night, May 27, in northeast Iowa, where the town of Parkersburg sustained extensive tornado damage Sunday evening, May 25, and six people were killed.

“It was total destruction. It just ate up Parkersburg,” reported Mike Roberts, director of missions for the Northeast Iowa Baptist Association.

Roberts and his wife Ginny surveyed various tornado-ravaged areas and coordinated efforts to call in the Iowa Baptist disaster relief feeding unit.

Roberts serves as a volunteer chaplain with the Iowa State Patrol and also was called out Sunday night to assist troopers as they responded to the emergency.

About a third to a half of Parkersburg, a town of 1,900 people, was destroyed, according to news reports –- including several hundred homes, the city hall and high school.

Parkersburg residents were evacuated to a neighboring community and the town was closed to all but disaster officials. On Monday, some residents began returning to the hard-hit town.

The path of the tornado that churned through Parkersburg and several other communities was up to a mile wide, according to reports. Two additional people were killed in New Hartford and nearly 70 others were injured in the region. News reports on Waterloo, Iowa, TV stations noted that debris from Parkersburg was picked up in LaCrosse, Wis.

Ty Berry, disaster relief coordinator for the Baptist Convention of Iowa, reported the unit, to be based in Aplington, is prepared to feed between 1,000 and 1,500 meals per day when it is operational. He expected 15 volunteers to be deployed. The unit is based at First Baptist Church in Winterset, Iowa, and is staffed by DR volunteers from across the state.

Berry indicated that a chainsaw DR unit based in western Iowa also is on standby.

At present, no other state DR units are being deployed, but Berry said that may change. “Being that it occurred on a holiday weekend, our people have been gracious to respond to staff the unit. The Iowa spirit of response has been great,” Berry said.
Based on reporting by Richard Nations, publications editor for The Iowa Baptist newsjournal.

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