Salvation Army Leader Says Katrina Impact is Unprecedented

JACKSON, Miss. - With winds of 95 mph hammering his base of operations here, Salvation Army Divisional Commander Major Dalton Cunningham, said that, in his experience, the impact of Hurricane Katrina is unprecedented.


Cunningham, who is responsible for the three states hardest hit by the storm so far - Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama - said, "The size of this is massive. It is covering several states and coming several hundred miles inland. So the needed resources are going to be more widespread." He added, "This one is hitting multiple cities."

Indeed, Cunningham reported that at least 800,000 people in Louisiana are without power. He reported also that those sheltered in the Superdome in New Orleans were without air conditioning and possibly electricity. In Jackson, he reported that at least 50,000 where without power at the time of the interview, which was about 4 p.m. CDT.

He said that approximately 100 Salvation Army workers are presently working either in the field - such as at shelters in New Orleans - or at national and regional headquarters to coordinate activities. Another 200 are standing by at the perimeter of the storm, waiting on the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assess where best to direct resources.

Once activated, the 200 workers of the Salvation Army's Incident Management Teams will be moving in 72 canteens that can feed 400,000 people a day and two 54-foot mobile kitchens that can feed an additional 20,000 people a day.

Cunningham explained, "The first priority is to feed those that are hungry, that have no food, and that have no place to cook."

He said those wanting to help the needy by assisting the Salvation Army could best do so by making cash donations. "Financial contributions are greatly needed, and provide The Salvation Army with the funds to purchase what storm victims need. They also allow The Salvation Army to assess the unique needs of individuals and families, as well as put money back into the economy of those communities affected by the disaster." To donate by phone, call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. To donate by mail, send checks, earmarked "disaster relief," to PO BOX 4857 JACKSON, MS 39296-4857. Click here to donate online...

Indeed, Wal-Mart today contributed one million dollars to the Salvation Army for its relief efforts. "I just want to express how deeply grateful we are for such a generous contribution," said Cunningham. "We hope that corporations will match it, for the needs will be great."

He added, "Don't send clothing or material items at this point. People are going to be without homes or places to put stuff."

Once immediate needs are met, said Cunningham, the Salvation Army will focus on providing clean up support and assistance.

Cunningham said he had not been able to communicate with his workers in New Orleans who stayed to take care of about 250 people that could not leave for economic or other reasons, but others had relayed information to him that they had ridden the worst of the storm out. But, he wasn't surprised he had lost touch, saying, "Losing lines of communication is generally the first challenge facing us."

He expressed appreciation to Operation Blessing. "They have been wonderful about transporting goods." It is an international humanitarian aid organization dedicated to alleviating human need and suffering by providing food, water, medicine and disaster relief to those in need. To learn more, visit, http://operationblessing.org/.

He also praised several groups affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention for their assistance, in particular food preparation (more below).

Cunningham predicted the costs associated with rebuilding and recovery will run into "the multi-millions of dollars." Yet, he added, "The Salvation Army will be there until the needs are over."

He said the biggest challenge over the next one to three days will be getting into the worst affected areas. Hence, he said, "We ask for the prayers of all the people that we have wisdom, strength and the resources to meet the demands." He concluded, "People mean the most to us. Houses and other things can be replaced."

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Christian Emergency Network (CEN) Founder and CEO Mary Marr said, "Your prayers for those affected by Hurricane Katrina will have far-reaching effects. Indeed, we are thankful to God that our prayers for the storm's power to diminish and its devastation not be as severe as predicted have been answered. Accordingly, we ask that Christians please pray that any individuals who are in life-threatening situations will be discovered and helped; that the available rescue squads and medical teams will be sent out strategically by dispatchers who will wisely discern the urgency of requests received; for the emotional and physical stamina and strength for first responders; for the various relief organizations will coordinate their efforts to maximize their resources; for adequate workers, food and supplies to meet the needs of those who evacuated to the Superdome and to other locations; that God will encourage and comfort the devastated who have no hope; that Christians in the affected areas will express the love of Christ by caring and sharing with those they come in contact with on a physical, emotional and spiritual level."
 
To gain access to exclusive interviews of Christian Emergency Network CEN officials regarding the storm, visit: http://www.centoday.com

The Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief is staging atCherryRoadBaptistChurchin Memphis, according to Tennessee Baptist State Disaster Relief director David Acres. He said, "An initial team of more than 100 Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers will stage this evening atCherryRoadChurch, located at 1421 Cherry Road, Memphis, 38117, to await the storm's passage. We are anticipating deployment to either Mississippi orLouisianato assist in feeding, communications, recovery, and chaplaincy ministries."

Additionally, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is preparing for a 300,000-meal response within 24 hours of Hurricane Katrina's landfall. Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas Baptist Men, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Mississippi, , Florida, Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, New Mexico, Iowa, Michigan, and Virginia Baptist Mission Board all have been activated.