TWO parishes in the diocese of the Carolinas have been devastated by Hurricane Florence, and dozens of churches and communities have suffered during the storms.
At least 25 people were killed in the region, and hundreds more were injured when the Category 1 hurricane (downgraded from Category 4) made landfall over the weekend, with top wind-speeds of 140 mph. The storms brought catastrophic flooding to the eastern part of the state, and hundreds of buildings were damaged. Seven more people were killed in neighbouring areas.
The National Hurricane Centre confirmed on Wednesday that the hurricane had since weakened to a tropical depression, with winds of 30 mph.
A million people are estimated to have been affected. Thousands of people were evacuated before the hurricane struck last week, and services were cancelled.
The diocese of the Carolinas, part of the Anglican Church in North America, has asked for continued prayers and donations to the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF) to help the people affected. Staff at St Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant, whose Rector is the Bishop of the Carolinas, the Rt Revd Steve Wood, are organising teams to aid the relief effort.
Bishop Wood said on Wednesday: “One of the many challenges we are still facing right now is that a good bit of the affected coastal area is still in accessible. The television showed the immediate effect of the wind in the rain but what it did not show was the inland affect of the accumulated rain and now all of that water is flowing down river to the coastlands.
“We are expecting floodwaters to crest in the next few days.
“Today a team from our diocese is heading into the affected areas to begin to gain an assessment what kind of response we can make that will help alleviate the conditions of many people living there.”
A ministry leader at the church, Andy Breaux, said on Wednesday: “Roads into the area have been closed and communication is spotty. We will attempt to get to New Bern, NC today (about six hours from Charleston, SC) to assess the situation with our sister churches.”
REUTERSA church offers prayers, as well as helping the relief effort
A message on the diocesan Facebook page read: “As North and South Carolinians begin the process of assessing and recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence, many have asked, ‘How can we help?’ The diocese of the Carolinas has two parishes in and close to the heavily affected portion of North Carolina: Grace Church in New Bern, and Christ Church in Little Washington.
“Of course, there are other Anglican parishes in the affected areas as well. You may make a financial gift to the ARDF. Our diocese will be working closely with the ARDF to administer these funds helping to ensure that those most affected will experience the benefit of your generosity.
“Please keep all those in the affected areas in your prayers, as well as the first-responders and relief crews already at work.”
The ARDF itself is also appealing for donations. Its website says: “Anglican churches across the country are reaching out to help with volunteers, supplies, and funds for relief efforts. You can support them by contributing to their efforts.
“After the storm, it often takes weeks to access the damage to a community. When this happens, we at ARDF want to be able to immediately offer resources, so that rebuilding can get under way. Many Anglican dioceses have churches in the path of the storm. The diocese of the Carolinas sustained the most damage, and it will co-ordinate Anglican efforts on the ground.”
Meanwhile, a super typhoon made landfall in the Philippines, on Saturday, killing more than 60 people, mostly in landslides which reduced hundreds of buildings to rubble. It was one of the strongest typhoons to hit the islands since Haiyan in 2013. Among the dead were a group of 32 gold-miners and their families, who were crushed under a collapsed chapel in the village of Ucab. The pastor had invited the families to take refuge there during high winds, it was reported.
World Vision began handing out emergency supplies for 350 families, including sanitary kits, blankets, and mosquito nets, in some of the worst-hit areas in Cagayan Province this week, The charity estimates that 10 million people could have been affected by the storms, equivalent in strength to a Category 5 hurricane. Damage to crops is estimated at about £190 million.
The national director of World Vision Philippines, Rommel Fuerte, said: “This is just the beginning of our emergency response. There is an urgent need for life-saving help. Children desperately need aid — and fast. We are also very concerned about child-protection issues in the wake of the typhoon. It’s vital that we’re on the ground ready to provide psychological first-aid and protection for children who need it most.”
World Vision is appealing for donations. One of its first-responders to news of the typhoon, Lanelyn Carillo, said: “The lives of thousands of families have been devastated through the loss of loved ones or homes. Rice and corn plantations have been flattened, houses destroyed, and trees toppled.
“The impact of this typhoon will last for years to come.”
Christian Aid has also launched an appeal, which says: “Christian Aid is particularly concerned for those communities in more remote mountainous areas who are extremely vulnerable. In many areas, people’s harvest was days away from being ready, but has now been lost. Combined with high inflation, there are longer-term concerns about food security.”