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Churches rally to assist flooded Louisiana

26 August 2016


Submerged: a statue of the Virgin Mary is surrounded by floodwater, during rains in Sorrento, Louisiana

Submerged: a statue of the Virgin Mary is surrounded by floodwater, during rains in Sorrento, Louisiana

A HUGE recovery-operation is under way in the US state of Louisiana, huge swaths of which have been affected by devastating floods, which killed 13 people and damaged at least 60,000 homes.

Worst affected was the Baton Rouge area, where 37 inches of rain fell in the slow-moving storm two weeks ago. The Red Cross said the flooding was the worst natural disaster in the United States since Superstorm Sandy in 2012 (News, 9 November 2012).

The dioceses of Louisiana and Western Louisiana are helping to co-ordinate recovery-operations, and were urging people to donate money rather than second-hand goods to the relief effort.

Karen Mackey from the diocese of Louisiana said: “The churches in our diocese are doing a phenomenal job in responding to the flood. We in Louisiana have become no stranger to natural disasters. One of our greatest strengths is knowing where our talents and assets lie, and knowing how to use them to respond when and where needed. Our churches across the diocese are partnering with one another, pooling resources to respond where God calls them to serve, and seeking out the most vulnerable to share God’s love.”

She said that members of church communities were cooking and serving meals to flood victims and the National Guard, cleaning and gutting affected homes, and distributing food.

Only one Episcopal church was affected by flooding, St Francis’s, Denham Springs: the church community held its service in the next door parking lot. Many of the church’s congregation have lost their homes due to flood damage.

In Hebron Baptist church near by, 200 people who had been taken there for safety by emergency workers, later had to be rescued again as rising floodwater left them stranded.

The non-denominational Bethany Church, which has a campus in Baton Rouge that was flooded, has turned into a relief point distributing emergency aid.

The faith-based charity Mercy Chefs, which has professional chefs as volunteers, has been preparing about 9000 meals a day in mobile kitchens in the region.

“We got here just as quickly as we could get through the barricades and the roadblocks and the high water, and started serving food immediately upon arrival,” Mercy Chefs’ founder, Gary LeBlanc, said.

“To come to a disaster area — folks that have lost everything — and share a meal with them, brings some semblance of hope,” he said. He added: “You should do that over a good meal, the best meal you are able to make, not just something you opened and heated and slopped out.”

The Episcopal Relief and Development Agency has made an emergency grant to help flood victims, and has launched a campaign to raise money for the long-term recovery of the region.

President Obama visited the area on Tuesday this week, ten days after the disaster struck, amid criticism that he was too slow to arrive. The Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, had visited last week, and handed out supplies to affected residents.

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