FBDR stages as Hurricane Matthew slams state

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With Governor Rick Scott telling Floridians “This storm will kill you. Time is running out,” an estimated 1.5 million people evacuated Florida’s Atlantic coast communities as Hurricane Matthew began pummeling the shore during the early morning hours of Oct. 7.

Even without making landfall, the Category 3 hurricane with winds averaging 115 miles per hour resulted in widespread power outages as daylight brought damage assessments along the storm’s path beginning in Palm Beach County.  The storm is blamed for one death.

“Hurricane Matthew continues to impact Florida,” said Delton Beall, Florida Baptists’ director of Disaster Relief. “The scope of impact goes from Port St. Lucie north to the Georgia line.”

News reports throughout the day indicate the continuing winds and flooding are causing property damage throughout the region.

Florida Baptist Disaster Relief is working with the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee and other partners to meet feeding, clean up and recovery and other needs. Volunteers are staged throughout the state readying equipment, loading supplies and coordinating logistics of moving into the affected areas when emergency restrictions are lifted.

Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, expressed appreciation for the work of the FBDR volunteers who are mobilizing across the state “and the hundreds of others who are waiting to respond.”

Meanwhile, Florida Baptists are beginning preparations to provide relief to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world,  after news that Matthew caused significant damage and hundreds of deaths. The Florida Convention has had a partnership with the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste de Haiti for the past two decades.

“Although the largest population center in Haiti, Port of Prince, escaped major damage from Hurricane Matthew the southern areas of Haiti were devastated,” said Craig Culbreth, catalyst of the Convention’s Missions and Ministries team. “There has been loss of life, loss of buildings and just general destruction of animals and gardens. It is those animals and gardens that the Haitians depend so heavily on for daily provisions.” Culbreth is expected to travel to Haiti on Saturday.

The Florida Convention in partnership with CMBH has pre-staged rice and water in these hardest hit areas.  “We will formulate our overall response after sending in an assessment team in the next few days,” Culbreth said.

CMBH ministry director DeLouis LaBranche has been in contact with pastors in the affected southwest region near Les Cayes. ”About 100 to 200 churches lost their roofs, 5,000 houses lost their roofs, 2,000 houses flooded, and nine people died in the locality of Cavaillon.”  In other areas, as many as 20,000-30,000 have lost their homes, he reported.

Florida’s two feeding units are staging at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center near Leesburg. “We have been requested to stage nine mobile kitchens with a target goal of 230,000 meals,” said Beall.

Currently units from sister state conventions are moving to host churches in Pensacola, Tallahassee and Lake City waiting for specific assignments. State feeding units enroute to Florida include Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Beall expects the feeding units to be partially operational by Monday and fully by Wednesday.

He stressed that there is concern that the projected path of Hurricane Matthew may circle back to the state which will cause operational feeding units to retreat to non-affected areas.

Florida’s temporary child care volunteers have been stationed at Putnam County Medical Center in Palatka, caring for children of nurses and hospital employees who have been called in to work during the storm.

Other volunteers are on standby and asked to report to their regional coordinators. Cleanup and recovery crews, emergency response teams, chaplains, administration and logistic volunteers are expected to be deployed when the storm passes.

To make donations to  Florida Baptist Disaster Relief Ministries, go to https://flbaptist.org/disaster-relief-donations for information.

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