Christian non-governmental organizations including Salvation Army, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritan’s Purse, and World Vision have deployed manpower and resources to the Oklahoma disaster zone to assist in disaster relief.
“We are going to stand by them and do everything we can to help them recover physically, emotionally and spiritually,” said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse International.
On Sunday, a large tornado hit Shawnee, a town southeast of Oklahoma City, causing one fatality. Then, another storm with wind speed at EF-4 and EF-5 came Monday afternoon, plowed through an area as two miles wide and 17 miles long. The suburb town Moore was hardest hit, where houses are reduced to debris piles, and cars and trucks are strewn along roadsides.
Police, firefighters, volunteers and nearly 180 National Guard troops joined forces Tuesday in search of survivors in areas hit by the storm. Texas sent an elite 80-member urban search team, and American Red Cross sent 25 emergency response vehicles.
24 people were confirmed dead, including nine children, according to State medical examiner’s office. More than 230 people injured. At least 100 people were pulled alive from the wreckage.
Jack Munday, international director of Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, said, “Our hearts are breaking for all those in the path of this horrific tornado. Our entire organization is praying for them.”
Crisis-trained BGEA chaplains have been deployed to minister to the emotional and spiritual needs of those devastated by this disaster. Roads have been blocked, so they have been praying with those affected from the perimeter.
Samaritan’s Purse has deployed two disaster relief units from North Carolina headquarters before dawn on Tuesday. One will be based in Moore, and the other in Shawnee, Oklahoma. They are looking for fifteen people to work primarily on debris clean up, chainsaw work and roof tarping.
The Salvation Army is organizing disaster response units to serve Moore and South Oklahoma City, and has already established presence in cities of McAlester and Shawnee. They have provided breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the early morning hours and all day yesterday and today for those in Lincoln County and Cleveland County.
“We’re heartbroken to hear the reports that so many children lost their lives in this storm,” said Phyllis Freeman, World Vision’s domestic disaster response director.
“Right now, the roads into the affected communities are closed,” said Freeman. “But as soon as we can get in, we’ve got assessment teams ready to go.” In the meantime, staff members are positioning supplies at World Vision’s domestic disaster response warehouse in Grand Prairie, Texas.
The supplies will target the most vulnerable children and families in the hardest hit areas, and will include emergency food kits, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, blankets, and tarps.
The storms were part of a severe system that generated tornadoes in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa. Dozen of counties in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri were placed under tornado watches and warnings.
The city of Moore was hit by similar twisters in 1999 and 2003.