(Photo: Facebook/Salvation Army USA)
Several faith-based relief effort crews from the Salvation Army, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and Convoy of Hope, a relief organization, have been dispatched to aid victims in several flood-stricken areas of Colorado, after torrential rains inundated a vast majority of the state nearly a week ago.
At least eight people have been killed by deadly flooding that swamped 17 counties, while over 500 continue to be unaccounted for, which state officials say could be an issue of "book-keeping and cross-referencing," according to ABC News. In addition, thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes while nearly an estimated 18,000 houses have been damaged.
Salvation Army response units have been in Colorado for days now and have provided over 10,000 meals to residents while they continue to establish short and long-term evacuation shelters that will remain open for the next 30 to 90 days.
"The Salvation Army is currently providing assistance to first responders, law enforcement and evacuees in seven counties across Colorado," Lt. Col. Dan Starrett said, a divisional commander for the Salvation Army. "Our organization is prepared to remain there for Coloradans as long as needed even through the long recovery phase ahead."
Similarly, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, a ministry of crisis trained volunteer chaplains, who usually deploy in the aftermath of any given disaster, have been in Colorado since the weekend with the purpose to help assess the devastation while providing emotional and spiritual care to flood victims who have suddenly become homeless.
"People don't know what they should do," Toni New said, a member of the Rapid Response Team, according to the ministry's website. "A lot of people can't even get into their homes. They're lost on what their next step is."
During her stay, New has witnessed residents display a myriad of emotions and high levels of stress through her encounters with home and business owners who have lost everything they had.
According to state emergency management office estimates, over 1,500 homes were completely destroyed. In response, Convoy of Hope sent out several tractor trailers of relief supplies to areas including Longmont, Evans, Boulder, and other counties along with team members to help clean up the disaster damage.
"Our priority has been to help people with debris removal and doing mud-outs of their home. The goal is to help survivors mitigate further damage to their homes. Our teams have also brought debris removal equipment such as masks and gloves so homeowners and volunteers can work safely," said Jeff Roman, senior director of marketing and public relations for Convoy of Hope.
Roman said the organization is focused on debris removal because cleaning up is the greatest difficulty that victims currently face, since most lack homeowner flood insurance or do not have enough coverage. In addition to their cleanup efforts, Convoy of Hope has also provided local churches with relief effort supplies to distribute in smaller communities.
"We are also trying to coordinate systems to efficiently process work-orders and engage volunteers from local churches who will do the work," Roman said. "We try to empower volunteers in communities so that the communities are able to help themselves."
During a three-day period last week, the area of Boulder alone received more than half a year's worth of rain fall; however, that accounts for only a portion of the total amount that cascaded over Colorado, prompting experts at the National Weather Service to refer to the downpour as an event of "Biblical proportion."
Currently, evacuations are still underway and despite inclement weather that kept helicopters grounded through the weekend, search and rescue crews were able to resume their efforts on Monday, rescuing many that were initially listed as missing. However, according to CNN reports, state officials have said it could take weeks or even months to search through flood-ravaged areas for additional victims who have died.