USA: A year of healing - The American Red Cross response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma

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In 2005, the United States experienced an unprecedented emergency, which resulted from its worst hurricane season ever. The three hurricanes impacted an area larger than North and South Carolina combined.Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma damaged communities, trapped 40,000 people and wrenched millions from their homes.

By some measures, the 2005 hurricanes created basic human needs that were 10 to 20 times greater than any domestic disaster in the past 125 years.

The challenges, the help and the hope...were all great:

- More than 244,000 people helped-95 percent of them were volunteers from 47 states, three territories and the District of Columbia.That huge number equals all the attendees of the last three Super Bowls and more than 27,000 of their friends.

- The Red Cross opened 1,400 shelters and provided 3.8 million overnight stays.

- More than 68 million meals and snacks were served. It's as if all the residents of California, Florida and Illinois were invited for lunch.

- More than 1.4 million families, approximately four million people,were helped. That is Red Cross aid to almost 1.5 percent of the U.S. population.

- On the fifth day after Katrina, the Red Cross served 995,000 hot meals- more than five times the number of meals ever served on a single day of disaster response.


The need continues: Eight months after the storms,more than 750,000 evacuees were still living away from their homes-scattered throughout all 50 states.


- For many thousands, a concrete slab is all that remains of their home.

- For thousands more, opening the front door of their homes reveals either mold-covered walls or nothing but studs and rafters-the sheetrock and ceiling removed as a first step toward rebuilding.

- Entire neighborhoods stand desolate and vacant, with spray-painted orange search-and-rescue symbols and high-water marks to give mute testimony to what happened a year ago.

- For some, their experience was so traumatic that they have begun to show symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other disorders. As the Red Cross helps people cope with what happened in the past, it must also help them plan ahead.The Red Cross is on-site to assist coastal families as they prepare for the next emergency.


One year later, the needs of survivors are still overwhelming: it will take the continued best efforts of government and non-profit organizations for these families to recover. The Hurricane Recovery Program (HRP) is the next step in the Red Cross response effort, helping hurricane survivors along the road to recovery. The HRP is focusing on four areas in which the Red Cross can help the most: helping families plan their recovery; providing emotional support; providing vital information and recovery resources; and meeting emerging needs. HRP team members will be meeting one-on-one with individuals and families to help identify their needs and the full scope of available resources; they will also be joining forces with other community organizations that have vital resources necessary for recovery. Additionally, the HRP is connecting families with government or charitable programs and agencies that best fulfill their needs. Sometimes, it's more than physical needs that become a priority-people need emotional support as well. The HRP will be providing resources and programs to help individuals and families with emotional support.

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American Red Cross
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.