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June 5, 2003 ELCA News Service
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John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958
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Lutherans Continue Recovery Efforts from Spring Storms

Chicago (ELCA)-MR — Lutheran Disaster Response, a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod (LCMS), continues to organize relief efforts after 412 tornadoes and more than 2,000 storms struck the Midwest this spring.

The tornadoes and storms "brought havoc and devastation to people in the mid- and lower United States," said the Rev. Gilbert B. Furst, director, Lutheran Disaster Response. Floods produced by the storms are affecting Alabama, Arkansas and Illinois, he said.

"At least 50 counties in Missouri have been declared federal disaster sites," said Larry Gustafson, information resource manager, Lutheran Family and Children's Services of Missouri (LFCS). LFCS is managing recovery efforts on behalf of Lutheran Disaster Response, and Gustafson is serving as the coordinator for disaster response.

In Kansas City nearly 800 homes were damaged or destroyed. In southwest Missouri the count of damaged homes may reach 3,000. These figures do not include businesses, farm buildings, schools, and churches or numbers from the eastern side of the state, Gustafson reported.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, State Emergency Management Agency, American Red Cross and Salvation Army have been active in disaster recovery in Missouri, Gustafson said. Many other state, community and faith-based organizations have been active in the primary phase of recovery, he said.

Lutheran Disaster Response has been communicating the need for volunteers, bottled water, food, cleaning supplies and other items. It will also commit to the long-term relief phase, said Gustafson.

"The long-term phase of recovery can take as long as one to three years," he said.

Lutheran Disaster Response is a major provider of the resources needed during the phase of recovery, such as recruiting volunteers for repair and construction projects, cleaning crews and final debris cleanup, monetary funds to purchase construction materials, medical and other services, and in-kind donations of furniture, beds, appliances and more, said Gustafson.

The Rev. Christine E. Iverson, disaster consultant, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, said the "southeast and southwest corners of Kansas have been hit hard by tornadoes." Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska is managing Lutheran Disaster Response's recovery efforts in Kansas.

Major areas of concern are in Kansas City, southeast and southwest Kansas around Kismet and Liberal, said Iverson. So far the Red Cross has indicated more than 1,250 houses have been affected by storms, she said.

The list of homes affected "have shown to be low compared to actual damage, especially in rural areas," according to Iverson. In Crawford County, for example, 38 houses were listed as destroyed or having incurred "major" damage. She said some homes in that area were affected but identified as incurring "minor" damage.

"The small village of Ringo had 38 of its 40 homes destroyed. The town of Franklin was about 80 percent destroyed with well over 100 houses gone, and the small town of Mulberry was similarly affected. These are the areas where most of the storm-related deaths occurred in Kansas," Iverson said.

"Counties in southwest Kansas hit by a May 15 tornado have also been added to the federal disaster declaration," she said.

"Concern has surfaced for the many undocumented families brought into the area by the meat packing industry. It is estimated that 200 to 300 families have been affected. Many of them live in mobile homes and received the most damage and loss. Language and cultural barriers and fear of Immigration and Naturalization Service involvement are impairing efforts to help those affected. It is important for people to know that they can register and receive disaster help without the INS being notified," she said.

"Long-term recovery for the area will need Lutheran and interfaith efforts to reach all members of the communities affected by disaster. No one deserves a disaster, and everyone needs help to recover," Iverson said.

She said the number of counties and the areas involved and storms that continue to hit the same areas have complicated efforts for disaster response. But the church is involved for the long haul. "Into the midst of death and disaster the church brings the message of hope as we work together towards recovery."

DOMESTIC DISASTERS:

Editors: When listing organizations receiving funds to aid survivors of major disasters inside the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, please include:

ELCA Domestic Disaster Response
P.O. Box 71764
Chicago, Illinois 60694-1764

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