Situation report : Hurricane Georges
While Georges' strength diminished from 110 mph winds to 75 mph today, the storm is expected to re-energize as it moves over warm waters.
The threat to Florida comes as Georges caused flash floods in Haiti today, killing at least 11 people. In all, the hurricane's four-day death toll stands at 37, including 17 in the Dominican Republic.
But as Florida braced for Georges' arrival and Haiti struggled with the hurricane's fury today, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico were beginning recovery efforts. Officials in both locales described conditions as grave.
In the Dominican Republic, the capitol of Santo Domingo sustained heavy wind damage to homes and businesses and severe, waist-deep flooding.
Tens of thousands remained in shelters in Puerto Rico, where heavy structural damage was reported. At least four people were reported dead. The island still remained without electricity, and water service also remained interrupted because of the power outage. The hurricane caused at least $1 billion in damage in Puerto Rico.
Mudslides in Haiti were a growing concern. Massive tree-cutting and erosion are aggravating flooding, Haitian environmentalists said. This was also a problem in recent flooding in Chiapas, Mexico, and was also a factor in Puerto Rico. (For more on this, see story at www.disasterrelief.org)
Meanwhile, in a grim sign that the 1998 hurricane season was far from over, Hurricane Jeanne strengthened today off of the coast of Africa, with winds already at 90 mph, The Associated Press reported . Jeanne was only the third storm system in the last 100 years to become a hurricane so far east.
CWS RESPONSE: CWS is planning to issue an appeal and is already sending $15,000 in Emergency Advance Funds to Dominican Churches Social Service (SSID), a long-time CWS partner in the Dominican Republic, for immediate relief needs, including blankets and construction materials.
This is just one part of what is developing into a multi-track response to the developing emergency. In addition to material assistance, which will also include sending relief assistance such as blankets and Gifts of the Heart kits as needed, the CWS response includes developing contingency plans with its Regional Facilitators to respond to Hurricane Georges.
The current plans call for:
Deploying a CWS consultant to work with Waddy Gonzalez, Puerto Rico-based Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Voluntary Agency Liaison, over a two-week period to initiate local recovery organizations as needed.
Gonzalez has requested this assistance.
Working with local partners, such as SSID, in the Caribbean.
Working with Lutheran Disaster Response on St. Thomas and St. Croix as a lead agency to develop a long-term interfaith recovery program if required.
Deploying a CWS consultant team to lay the groundwork for cooperative religious community response on the Virgin Islands both among local congregations and among national responders -- within the context of Lutheran Disaster Response leadership.
CWS Regional Facilitators covering FEMA Region I, II and IV -- Joann Hale of the United Church of Christ and Charles Moeller of Lutheran Disaster Response -- will assess needs and facilitate recovery programs as needed on the Virgin Islands and Florida should Georges strike the Sun Shine state.
In another development today, Adventist Community Services asked CWS to help it mobilize members of the faith community in New York to staff armories that have been converted to warehouse Puerto Rico-designated donations from throughout the state.
CONTACTS: Joann Hale (716)-773-7935 (H), (716)-884-4800 (O), (716)-472-6668 (cellular) (716)-884-6117 (FAX), (800)776-4660 (Pager) e-mail: email@example.com
Charles Moeller (704)-433-8142 (H), (704)-439-1914
(Cellular), (888)-300-4425 (Pager), (704)-433-9883 (FAX)
Call the CWS HOTLINE for updates: (800) 456-1310.
For further information about disasters to which Church World Service is responding, contact CWS Emergency Response.
Telephone: (212) 870-3151
After-hours emergency pager: (800) 780-0853
Internet Web Site: http://www.ncccusa.org/CWS/emre