by Linda Unger
October 28, 2012—The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is reaching out to partners in the Caribbean in the wake of Hurricane Sandy there, while also bracing to respond to the storm’s expected catastrophic destruction yet to come in the US Northeast.
UMCOR Assistant General Secretary for US Disaster Response the Rev. Tom Hazelwood has been in contact with partners in Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, as well as in the Northeast Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church in the United States.
Both Hazelwood and US Disaster executive Cathy Earl cancelled scheduled travel plans this week, “So we can be available to the conferences and to our partners in the Caribbean,” Hazelwood said.
So far, Hurricane Sandy is known to have killed 65 people in the Caribbean—51 in Haiti, 11 in Cuba, and 1 each in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. Communications systems remain unreliable in the region, and there are widespread power outages.
UMCOR consultant the Rev. Juan Vera Méndez was able to speak from Puerto Rico with Cuban Bishop Ricardo Pereira, who spent the weekend traveling to the provinces that suffered the greatest damage—Santiago de Cuba and Holguin.
Pereira reported destruction to homes—about 35,000 were damaged or destroyed—, agricultural fields, and electrical and telephone systems, and said that funds for emergency response are the “priority need” at this point.
In Jamaica, parts of the country outside the capital, Kingston, “are still reeling from the effects of the hurricane,” wrote the Rev. George Mulrain, a pastor of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA). He said the storm left flooding, blocked roads, and ruined crops, among other damages.
Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR associate general secretary for International Development, has been in contact with UMCOR field staff in Haiti, who are in the process of assessing damages there. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe described Hurricane Sandy’s impact on Haiti as “a disaster of major proportions.”
In the US, where Sandy is expected to make landfall in Central New Jersey, the Rev. Wayne Jones, Disaster Response coordinator for the Greater New Jersey Conference, told UMCOR’s Cathy Earl he expects to deploy early response teams (ERT).
Other conferences in the Northeast Jurisdiction—New York, Eastern Pennsylvania, Susquehanna, and Upper New York—which were severely impacted last year when Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee descended on them around Labor Day, are also making plans.
Hazelwood underscored that Hurricane Sandy is a “serious storm” and urged residents of the US Northeast to heed warnings to prepare and, where indicated, to evacuate.
In addition, he said, “There will be a lot of needs as a result of this storm,” which meteorologists have referred to as “near historic” in size. Sandy’s tropical-storm-force winds extend some 520 miles from its center, and its storm surge is predicted to reach nearly unprecedented levels.
“There are many ways you can help, but the most important right now is by giving to UMCOR US Disaster Response, Advance #901670, which will also cover needs in the Caribbean region,” he said. Be sure to choose “Hurricanes 2012” from the drop-down menu.
You can also text the word RESPONSE to 80888 to give an immediate $10 donation.