- (Photo: AP Images / San Antonio Express-News, Bob Owen)
Christian relief teams are on the ground and ready to begin distributing food, water and other needed items to Hurricane Gustav victims after the worst of the storm passed.
As of Tuesday, Gustav was reduced to the status of tropical depression with winds of 35 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Heavy rain and possible tornadoes remained threats to the region, but on a brighter note, Southern Louisiana’s levees appeared to have held up against Hurricane Gustav unlike with Katrina in 2005.
But officials warned the some two million Gulf Coast evacuees on Tuesday to not return home until assessments of damage and urgent repairs have been made, according to CNN.
Nearly 780,000 people in Louisiana and Mississippi have no power after Gustav toppled trees and power poles.
In response to evacuees’ needs, Operation Blessing International reported that its mobile kitchen and office as well as its disaster relief leadership team arrived in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Sunday. Also since last week, the ministry had been stockpiling supplies and staging relief efforts at a church in Baton Rouge.
A convoy from OBI warehouse in Florida was sent out this weekend. It included a 20-ton truck crane, a truckload of temporary roof materials, and 4-door diesel pickups pulling trailers loaded with portable showers, tools, and other supplies.
Likewise, World Vision and Christian Reformed World Relief Committee say their teams are also prepared to respond to evacuees’ needs.
World Vision teams have begun to help families that evacuated to Dallas and Jackson, Miss., by distributing immediate essentials like diapers, clothing for babies, children and adults, shampoo, soap, deodorant, toilet paper, napkins, paper plates, and children’s toys together with local church and community partners that are housing evacuees from Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.
"Items for children and babies are always the most in need," said Phyllis Freeman, a veteran of World Vision's Hurricane Katrina response and currently in Dallas leading the agency's Gustav field team. "But they're sometimes hard to get, and run out quickly, during the initial days of an emergency. So we're trying to offer families with children the things they need most."
Hundreds of local churches, school and community partners are working with World Vision to meet the needs of evacuees this week. Since Hurricane Katrina, some 350 churches, schools and faith-based community-based organizations in Mississippi and Louisiana have worked with the Christian agency in the region’s recovery.
CRWRC, meanwhile, said it is responding to both Gustav’s destruction in the United States as well as in Cuba.
"It's heartbreaking to see people who haven't been able to afford to finish repairing their homes face another massive storm," said Audrey Black, General Manager of World Vision's Storehouse in Picayune, Mississippi. "People are still living in temporary trailer parks in this area, and there isn't a sense of normalcy yet. Now families are going through the experience again."
Gulf coast residents are bracing themselves yet again this week for Tropical Storm Hanna, which could make landfall as a major hurricane on the southeastern U.S. coast by Friday evening, according to CNN.