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General News    H2'ed 6/21/08

Levees in Danger, Red Cross Responds

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The Red Cross, a 125-year old organization, has been on the ground helping victims of the Midwest flooding. However, the organization has come up short and for only the second time in the Red Cross’s history, just as those living near the Mississippi River and the St. Louis battle water threatening to crest or overtop nearby levees, the Red Cross was forced to borrow from banks to continue their efforts on the ground.

Since the flood waters ravaged the plains of the Midwest, the Red Cross has, as Claire Johnson of Public Affairs reports, been on the ground “helping the flood victims of flooding and tornadoes across seven states-an enormous geographic area.” The area includes the Wisconsin Dells as well as the tri-state are of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois.

The Red Cross has supplied the region with clean up supplies, dozens of shelters, and tens of thousands of meals.

While federal aid and state aid may be coming to the region, the Red Cross does not wait for that aid to reach victims and is there to address the people’s immediate needs by offering shelter and meals to those affected and also for emergency responders who have come here to help cleanup the disaster.

The Red Cross has a tremendous burden to take care of, but they are not alone in taking care of the arduous task. The Salvation Army and the Southern Baptists are there to help. The Southern Baptists provide traveling kitchens to the ravaged regions as part of the emergency response.

At this point, Johnson of Public Affairs says that 480,000 meals and snacks have been served to victims. Eighty-six emergency response vehicles and close to 1,900 Red Cross workers have been deployed in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin. First aid and mental health staff are providing counseling and support to victims while other workers distribute mops, brooms, work gloves, and other items for the cleanup.

The Red Cross also has a “Safe and Well” website up that allows families get assistance with locating loved ones who have evacuated their homes or communities.

In response to the levees in danger, the Red Cross has moved extra volunteers into those areas most at risk. The extra volunteers are sandbagging areas to protect regions from further flooding.

The Red Cross’ Public Affairs reports that media accounts of the disaster state that about 40,000 people have been evacuated from the flooded areas. Some of have returned but many remain in the more than 100 Red Cross shelters that have been erected to help victims get through this period of extreme weather.

Help is still needed as relief efforts continue in the Central U.S.

The Midwest floods follow several extremely busy months for the Red Cross, with more than 30 larger disaster operations since April. Combined, these relief efforts have largely depleted the Disaster Relief Fund. The Red Cross relies on the Disaster Relief Fund to deliver vast amounts of clean up supplies, dozens of shelters and tens of thousands of meals to flood victims along the Mississippi. Even with the Disaster Relief Fund significantly depleted, the Red Cross will not cut back on the level of services it provides to clients.

In a story posted on the Red Cross website, “Red Cross Helping Victims Thanks to Generosity of American Public”, it is revealed just how much first-rate help the Red Cross is giving to those affected. The article states:

The Red Cross has operated 97 shelters and provided 9,144 overnight stays to individuals, served 134,973 meals and 230,710 snacks, with 75 mobile feeding units on the move, and has distributed 12,760 clean up kits. None of this would be possible without the financial support of the American people- neighbors helping neighbors around the block and across the country.

The past months have been extremely busy and have depleted the Disaster Relief Fund. This depletion has unfortunately forced the Red Cross to cut back on the level of services provided. The story referenced above unveils how much items being handed out to victims cost the Red Cross:

$25 provides five blankets at an emergency shelter.
$75 can cover a doctor's visit for an individual injured in a disaster.
$350 will provide emergency food and shelter for 25 people for one day.
$1,250 will cover shelter and food for 50 disaster victims for one day.
$2,500 deploys one Emergency Response Vehicle and drivers (including housing and meals for driver) to a disaster relief operation.
$3,200 is the average yearly maintenance and fuel for one Emergency Response Vehicle.

The Red Cross asks those able to open their pocketbooks and help to make a donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.


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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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