Franklin Graham toured tornado affected areas in Alabama, including hard-hit Tuscaloosa, on Saturday as the head of the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse.
“When people lose everything to a tornado, flood or hurricane, it is overwhelming. Even in a country like ours, we can’t just depend on the government to come in and fix everything,” said Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse. “As Christians, we are called to help our neighbors in distress.”
North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse already has disaster relief workers on the ground in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Ala., helping residents affected by the tornadoes that left at least 250 people dead in Alabama, according to the death toll report on Sunday morning.
Alabama, the hardest-hit state among several in the South, also reported about 2,219 people injured in Wednesday’s storms. About 500,000 households still do not have power in the state, according to CNN.
Last week’s tornado storms were the deadliest in Alabama’s history since March 21, 1932, and one of the five deadliest in U.S. weather records, according to The Birmingham News. The 1932 tornadoes killed 268 people in Alabama.
“I’ve gotta say I’ve never seen devastation like this,” President Obama told reporters on Friday as he toured neighborhoods reduced to rubbles and splinters in Tuscaloosa.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate are scheduled to tour tornado-devastated areas in Alabama and Mississippi on Sunday. At least 339 people were killed by the tornado storms last week among the six affected states that also include Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Arkansas.
Samaritan’s Purse has tractor-trailers carrying emergency supplies and tools on the ground in Alabama and is calling for volunteers to help the disaster relief teams clean up debris and make emergency repairs on homes.
The call for volunteers comes just two weeks after the Christian relief organization issued a similar invitation for help in cleaning up and repairing homes of victims in North Carolina, where a tornado storm killed at least 23 people.
“It breaks our hearts to see our neighbors suffering from these devastating storms,” said Graham in a statement Saturday regarding the tornadoes in the South. “We are praying and want them to know that help is on the way.”