Historic flooding in Louisiana, fires in California prompt LDS Church response

Motorists try to navigate deep water flowing over a road in Walker, La., Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Although some flood waters have receded roads continue to be difficult to pass with private vehicles. (AP Photo/Max Becherer) Credit: AP
David Key looks at the back yard of his flooded home in Prairieville, La., Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. Key, an insurance adjuster, fled his home as the flood water was rising with his wife and three children and returned today to assess the damage. (AP Photo/Max Becherer) Credit: AP
A helicopter drops retardant and water over flames during the Blue Cut fire in West Cajon Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo) Credit: AP

Church humanitarian response teams are working with local priesthood leaders and disaster relief organizations to assist people impacted by severe flooding in southern Louisiana and wildfires in southern California.

Cash and in-kind contributions — including food and cleaning supplies — will help ease the suffering of many whose lives were devastated by several days of historic rainfall in Louisiana, said Church humanitarian response director Bruce Muir on Aug. 17.

“We’ve got [relief supply] trucks on the road,” he said.

Flooding triggered by the heavy rains is being blamed for 11 deaths. Meanwhile, about 30,000 people have been rescued and about 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.

No members or missionaries were harmed — although 160 member-owned homes have suffered some degree of damage, said Brother Muir.

Almost eight feet of water has inundated the Denham Springs Louisiana Stake meetinghouse. Floodwaters have also damaged the Baton Rouge Louisiana Stake meetinghouse.

Brother Muir expects additional Church assistance to be dispatched to impacted regions as local priesthood and Relief Society leaders continue their assessment of the disaster. Members are also expected to mobilize clean-up crews in the coming days to help fellow members and their neighbors muck out their homes.

“It’s going to take some time to get into some of the regions,” he added.

The floodwaters that roiled Louisiana came after a stretch of rainfall that meteorologists said was likely to be seen, in some areas, only once every 1,000 years, the New York Times reported.

Church disaster relief workers were also keeping a close eye Aug. 17 on several southern California wildfires. Of key concern was the Blue Cut Fire burning a few miles northwest of San Bernardino.

Counted among the 82,000 residents ordered to evacuate their homes were some 600 Latter-day Saint families.

Brother Muir said he anticipates the Church providing help in response to the wildfires once needs are identified. @JNSwensen

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