From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutherans Need Volunteers to Help Clean up after Hurricane Georges

From NEWS <>
Date 21 Oct 1998 15:15:00


October 21, 1998


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- "We need your help to respond to the devastation
Hurricane Georges left behind in the Florida Keys and in Puerto Rico," said
the Rev. Gilbert B. Furst, director for Lutheran Disaster Response, a
ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod.
     After visiting Puerto Rico Oct. 7-9, Furst said the situation there
is "already different" from that which he saw during his first visit
shortly after Hurricane Georges hit the Caribbean last month.
     "Chaos is giving way to the reality of loss," Furst said. "Many areas
have no electricity or telephone service.  Streets and roads are lined with
branches, twisted roofing, ruined clothes and damaged furnishings.  Blue
tarps are beginning to cover exposed ribs of broken roofs."
     Statistics continue to rise, said Furst.  About 45,000 houses were
destroyed and another 45,000 were damaged.  "There have been six suicides.
People are angry with the government ... the church, even God.  These are
normal dynamics of every disaster.  But there is another constant, too.
The church is here offering immediate relief and preparing to help over the
long haul."
     Lutheran Disaster Response is participating in relief efforts by
distributing tarps, food, medical supplies and clothing.  "Forty people
from Dorado (a community of San Juan), whose houses were destroyed, are
being housed at the ELCA Caribbean Synod's Camp Eduardo Roig.  Housing is
being prepared for volunteers from outside Puerto Rico.  Local Lutheran
Disaster Response staffing is being expanded to provide coordination of
volunteers and their meals and to help manage the response," reported
     Johanna Olson, assistant for Lutheran Disaster Response, said
volunteers are needed "to remove debris, put tarp over exposed areas of
houses, repair roofs and aid in major and minor rebuilding of houses."
     "We are asking volunteers to commit to one to two weeks of service,"
said Olson.
     "We spent three weeks without electricity and running water," said
Herminia Ramirez-Rios, a member of El Mesias Lutheran Church, Rio Piedras,
Puerto Rico.  "At night the only light we had was what the moon could give
us.  At least in our area, trees and debris have been removed but in Lares,
Utuado and towns further inland, the situation is worse.  Many are still
without electricity and unable to travel, since trees and debris cover most
of the roads."
     "In the Florida Keys the immediate need is for volunteers to help
with clean up," said Furst.  A Lutheran Disaster Response coordinator has
been named to help manage response there.


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

                   Lutheran Disaster Response
                         P.O. Box 71764
                    Chicago, IL  60694-1764

For information contact:
Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Director (773) 380-2955 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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