Mennnonite Disaster Service responds to Missouri storms

The storms hit Joplin, MO, Sunday afternoon; on Monday Joplin, MOgroups of local MDS volunteers were there helping chicken and turkey farmers by clearing access roads to damaged barns and moving live birds to other locations.

April was one of the most deadly months for tornados in years; May could turn out to be nearly as bad. Early reports after storms on Sunday put the death toll at over 80 in Joplin, with Search and Rescue teams still working.

MDS Disaster Response Coordinator, Jerry Klassen, arrived in Joplin on Monday, amid another storm pounding the already damaged area. He joined the MDS Missouri Unit leaders as they investigated how MDS may respond to the devastation.

The Missouri Unit has several trained Early Response Teams (ERT) that will arrive on Tuesday and begin tree removal, clean up and roof repairs in an area at the perimeter of the damage.

A group of volunteers from the Oklahoma MDS Unit will arrive on Friday to assist in the clean up. Joplin is not far from the Oklahoma border.

The MDS Arkansas Unit trained Search and Rescue Team (SART) was invited to the Joplin area to assist in search and rescue efforts there. Klassen reports “Some of the flattened area has been searched, you can tell by the markings. But some areas have not had Search and Rescue teams yet.” The SART will be given an area to search when they arrive.

Klassen noted that as they investigate and talk to survivors “There is a huge amount of shock and disbelief. We talked to one man who was distraught. His wife passed in December, he is disabled and now his house lies in shambles.”

The tornado did not hit only one area, “It hit the downtown area, industrial areas, businesses, big and small, and in rural, farming areas. And it hit a huge, huge amount of homes.”

The Missouri tornado follows a month of deadly tornados all over the US. MDS volunteers have been in Alabama since the April 27 tornados. The tornado takes only minutes to destroy; the clean up and rebuilding will take months or years. Currently MDS has two separate project locations in Alabama.

MDS Storm Aid is staffing a project in Phil Campbell, AL. The work there is clean up and they may begin the rebuilding phase soon.

The MDS project in Birmingham is running at full capacity with 40 volunteers every week. Clean up of trees and debris will be the major focus for some weeks, then repair and rebuilding. The project is expected to be open all summer and into the fall.