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New hurricane season brings need for donations

By Linda Bloom*
Sept. 10, 2007 | NEW YORK (UMNS)


Hurricane Felix struck northern Nicaragua and southern Honduras on Sept. 4. The United Methodist Committee on Relief seeks donations to help survivors of this year's hurricane season. A UMNS photo courtesy of NASA.

As reports begin filtering in from Nicaragua and Honduras about damage from Hurricane Felix, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is preparing to respond.

But donations are needed to provide relief both for victims of Felix and others needing assistance during the 2007 hurricane season, according to the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR's domestic disaster coordinator.

Hurricane Felix pummeled the coastlines of northern Nicaragua and southern Honduras Sept. 4 with 160 mph winds and drenching rains. Indigenous people in the area, many unable to evacuate, were expected to be heavily affected by hurricane and resulting rains and mudslides. As of Sept. 7, Central American officials had put the death toll at close to 100.

"Our church has responded so generously to the big hurricanes like Katrina … sometimes we forget that the people of Honduras and Nicaragua were devastated by this (Felix)," said Hazelwood in a Sept. 7 telephone interview after attending a summit in New Orleans on Katrina recovery.

The scope of the damage from Felix isn't yet known, although Hazelwood added that UMCOR has received communications from United Methodist Bishop Elias Galvan in Honduras and from missionaries there and in Nicaragua.

Both countries were devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which took the same path as Felix, although Felix was smaller in scope and moved faster. However, he pointed out, "The mudslides and the rain are causing serious problems there."

Giving donations now to UMCOR's Hurricanes 2007 fund will allow for a more effective response, according to Hazelwood. "With Katrina, the church began to respond before we even knew all the details," he said. "The need is going to be there (for Felix)."

Two Category 5 storms

Hurricanes Felix and Dean marked a serious beginning for the current hurricane season. "This is the first time in history you've had two Category 5 hurricanes make landfall in the same season," Hazelwood explained.


The Rev. Tom Hazelwood

"September is the most active hurricane month … who knows what we'll have to respond to even yet," he added.

UMCOR provided a major response in Central America after Hurricane Mitch. More recently, in 2005, the agency provided relief when several tropical storms and hurricanes ravaged indigenous communities in Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador.

Giving to UMCOR

Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma were among the storms that made the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season the most active in recorded history and supplied UMCOR with a record amount of donations for relief work.

A recent report, "Serving Survivors," which can be found on the agency's Web site, summarizes the denomination's response so far to damage caused by those hurricanes.

Nearly 6,000 individuals, for example, had received United Methodist assistance as of June 30, during long-term recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast. Total giving was more than $66 million — the highest ever given to an UMCOR Advance.

Checks for Hurricanes 2007 can be dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write "UMCOR Advance #982511, Hurricanes 2007," on the memo line of the check. Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583 or be clicking on any of the "Give Now" links at http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor online.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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