Baptist disaster response teams in the Mid-Atlantic have been placed on alert as they monitor devastation in Oklahoma in the wake of a massive tornado which killed at least 25 people, many of them children.
The storm pulverized Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, destroying homes and business, severely damaging a hospital and two elementary schools, and injuring hundreds of people. Emergency workers continued to search the wreckage for survivors and victims.
“We have been asked to place all volunteers on alert status for the Oklahoma tornados,” Dean Miller, disaster response coordinator for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, said in an email to volunteers. “Obviously [it’s] too early to tell but Sam Porter (the disaster response director for Oklahoma) thinks there could be a significant response in the coming days.”
North Carolina Baptist Men and Women has “equipment and team leaders on alert for a possible response,” the disaster relief group posted on its Facebook page. “We are maintaining situational awareness and in contact with national leadership. Pray for the survivors as they face the challenges of today.”
The District of Columbia Baptist Convention’s emergency response team also is on alert, said Ricky Creech, the convention’s executive director/minister.
“We are awaiting requests for mutual aid assistance from Incident Command which is set up in First Baptist Church of Moore, Okla.,” Creech said in an email. “Once the mutual aid request is sent out, we will then determine if the closer state response teams can handle the resources and capacity needed to fill the request. If not then D.C. Baptist emergency response team will deploy. We would most likely send our chainsaw and debris removal units along with any available chaplains and assessors.”
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship also is monitoring the situation, Associated Baptist Press reported.
“We are not first responders,” said Tommy Deal, the CBF’s national disaster response coordinator. “When they start putting the lives back to normal, CBF will see how we can be part of that.”
At least 80 Oklahoma Baptist volunteers began work in several locations in the state, said Sam Porter, disaster relief director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
“Within moments of hearing of the destruction in Moore, we put together a rapid response volunteer team to help with the clean-up and recovery efforts,” Porter wrote on the BGCO’s web page. “Our teams are on the ground now surveying the area and helping where we can be of most assistance.”
Early estimates rate the tornado as an EF4, meaning it had winds between 166 and 200 mph.
Robert Dilday ([email protected]) is managing editor of the Religious Herald.