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Weekend storms draw Southern Bapt. disaster relief

NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptists are assessing damage and readying help in five states where weekend tornadoes and floods killed at least 15 people and injured dozens, North American Mission Board (NAMB) executive Mickey Caison told Baptist Press.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) directors in Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas have sent assessment teams to communities damaged by tornadoes and flooding April 29-30, said Caison, NAMB executive director of Disaster Relief.

Both the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Texas Baptist Men (TBM) of the Baptist General Convention of Texas are assessing damage in that state, where CNN reported at least four deaths and 49 injuries caused by four tornadoes, one about a mile wide. More than 5,000 homes were in the monster storm’s path, Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett told CNN.

Arkansas suffered at least five deaths, the most of any state affected; two children, a four-year-old and an 18-month-old, were swept away by flood waters and were still missing today (May 1), Madison County Sheriff Rick Evans told CNN. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency April 30th. Other death counts to date include two each in Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, the result of flooding and heavy winds.

TBM is determining needs in hard-hit Canton and Van Zandt County today, TBM Disaster Relief Vice President Ralph Rogers told BP.

“We have had assessors out in the Canton area which was where a majority of the damage was with the tornadoes,” Rogers said. “A lot of the damage was commercial property and then a lot of rural, out in the country, and no houses. … Right now we haven’t gotten a lot of response of damage to personal property.”

The TBM will likely deploy chainsaw and tarp units as needs are properly assessed, Rogers said. “It’s still fairly early and we don’t really know how much we need to respond until we get through with the assessment phase.”

In nearby Wills Point, Texas, LifeHouse Fellowship cancelled April 30th services and responded to areas damaged by tornadoes, according to the church’s Facebook page.

“No services tomorrow. We will set our church up as a collection site,” the Southern Baptist church announced April 29, seeking donations of gift cards, bottled water, toiletries and cleaning supplies. “We will also try to mobilize people to go out and help with search and rescue, clean up, or whatever can be done.”

The next morning, the church posted a request for chainsaws and volunteers to “start cutting trees and cleaning the landscape.” Today, the church announced it would be delivering food to an emergency command center in Canton.

The weekend storms drenched areas from Louisiana northeast into Illinois with seven inches to a foot of rain, CNN said. As the storms are predicted to move farther east today and put about 80 million Americans at risk of severe weather, flood warnings are anticipated in parts of Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, the National Weather Service (NWS) told CNN. Many rivers in the areas had already crested.