Two volunteers left Des Moines today, bound for Joplin, Missouri, where a large tornado struck Sunday, killing at least 117 people, injuring dozens and flattening 2,000 homes and other buildings.
Iowa Red Cross chapter CEO Marlys DeVries says Missouri is in need and Iowa is answering the call, as best it can.
“Since this is just the first 48 hours, we’re looking for folks who have medical backgrounds and that’s what they’ll be doing, disaster health services,” DeVries says. “We’re sending two (volunteers) today. I anticipate that certainly more will be going as we start to look at sheltering and feeding and family assistance. These folks are focused on the medical needs.”
It’s a dual problem, with a deficit of volunteers and a surplus of disasters. Dozens of Iowa Red Cross staffers have already been dispatched to assorted trouble-spots across the country in recent weeks, particularly to Alabama.
During the twister outbreak on April 27th, National Weather Service officials say 188 tornadoes touched down across seven southern states, killing more than 300 people.
There’s also been flooding in several areas, wildfires and other disasters that have left the Iowa agency low on its most valuable resource, volunteers.
“We are stretched very thin,” DeVries says. “We sent over 65 people to the storms in the Southern United States. Currently, we still have 30 that are in different locations. We will send the best that we can, as will all of the other states, to support Missouri.”
She encourages anyone who’s interested in lending a hand to step forward and contact their nearest Red Cross chapter.
DeVries says, “Our volunteers can come to the chapter at any time and go through an orientation and then training that meets the basic requirements to go on other disasters here in the state or even as locally as Des Moines with single-family housefires and then to go out on disasters like this.”
Iowans who can help out with monetary donations should go online to www.RedCross.org or text message “Red Cross” to 90999 to donate $10.