31st October, 2012
Crisis-trained chaplains of the organisation founded by famed evangelist Billy Graham rushed to devastated regions in the United States as the death toll of super storm Sandy climbed to at least 39.
Additionally, "millions are without power, thousands are in shelters, and countless others are cut off from their families and loved ones," the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) told BosNewsLife in a statement on Tuesday.
It said that the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains are "now en route to the areas devastated" by super storm Sandy.
"These volunteer chaplains will offer emotional and spiritual support to people whose lives are in turmoil."
They arrived amid reports that millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke on Tuesday without electricity. New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain.
Many of the 39 killed were victims of falling trees.
Over eight million across America's East were without power.
Airlines canceled over 15,000 flights worldwide and The Associated Press news agency predicted that it could be days before the mess is untangled and passengers can get where they're going.
The storm also disrupted the presidential campaign with just a week to go before Election Day.
Amid the turmoil, BGEA said it believes its chaplains are prepared to help.
"The BGEA has trained RRT chaplains in 48 states and several countries. So far this year they’ve responded to wildfires, tornadoes, the Colorado shooting, Hurricane Isaac, and other crisis situations," the organisation added.
It said however that it had urged Christians to pray and support the chaplains as they "share the love of Christ with people in desperate need of hope."
Updates were expected via website BillyGraham.org/crisisresponse where supporters were also urged to "prayerfully consider a donation to this important ministry."
The destruction expected from Hurricane Sandy, targeting the country's most densely populated and developed region, was expected to make it the most expensive storm to hit the country since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Damage estimates range as high as $100 billion. Bloomberg news agency quoted credit agency Moody's as predicting that the gross domestic product loss from closed businesses and fewer shoppers could be about $10 billion a day between Washington and New York alone.
BGEA said its RTT chaplains are describing it as the "largest Hurricane in Atlantic Ocean History", with massive damage reported throughout the northeast U.S. "It is historic," said Jack Munday, director of the RTT team. However, "We're sharing God's love and hope, which He can only provide in a time like this."
Meanwhile, World Vision has deployed three rapid assessment teams New York, Washington, DC, and West Virginia this week while additional staff will remain on standby to begin distributing emergency supplies to the hardest-hit areas.
On Monday, World Vision's staff at the organisation's New York City site in the Bronx were forced to evacuate after rising flood waters from the East River that threatened to close nearby bridges and leave World Vision staff stranded and unable to respond. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 pre-positioned relief supplies at the New York City field site have been elevated to higher ground within World Vision's warehouse to avoid water damage.
"It's not ideal, but we felt it was necessary to evacuate our staff and seek shelter closer to Manhattan so we wouldn't be stranded ourselves," said Phyllis Freeman, World Vision's domestic disaster director. "We unplugged electrical equipment and put all the relief supplies up higher, but we're not sure when our response teams will be able to access the site if the river continues to rise."
World Vision's pre-positioned relief supplies include emergency food kits, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, blankets and tarps. This year, World Vision has responded to several US disasters, including Hurricane Isaac, wildfires in Oklahoma and tornadoes in Texas.
- BosNewsLife.com (with additional reporting by MICHAEL IRELAND, Assist News Service).