AmeriCares Sends Help to Southern States Slammed by Epic Tornado Outbreak

Water and Emergency Aid Delivered to AL and MS to Support Families in Crisis; Additional Relief Shipments Planned

Photo Courtesy of REUTERS/Lee Celano, www.AlertNet.org
Lonnie Golightly looks for belongings at the site of his destroyed house in the aftermath of deadly tornados in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Photo Courtesy of REUTERS/Lee Celano, www.AlertNet.org

Families across the south are struggling to recover from the aftermath of hundreds of deadly tornadoes and storms that swept across seven states in late April. AmeriCares responded immediately with numerous disaster relief shipments of medicines, water and emergency supplies to support health care providers, shelters and food banks serving people in crisis.

One day after the killer twisters struck, AmeriCares dispatched a relief expert to Mississippi and Alabama to assess needs and mobilize emergency aid:

  • Food banks in Alabama and Tennessee received 256,000 bottles of water. An additional 96,000 bottles are scheduled for delivery to shelters through the Salvation Army in both states.
  • Smithville, MS - Two targeted shipments including chronic care medicines to treat cardiac and gastrointestinal ailments, over-the-counter medicines, bandages, hygiene items, cleaning supplies and other aid are bound for the Access Family Health Clinic. The clinic is working with the local United Way to distribute materials to displaced families.
  • Access Family Health Clinic also will receive an AmeriCares grant to help serve patients while heavy damage to the building is repaired.
  • Conway Arkansas - A shipment of cleaning supplies for families trying to salvage the remains of their homes, and hygiene items for those left homeless is headed for the Interfaith Clinic in Conway.
  • Shelters in Alabama - Four additional truckloads of hygiene items and emergency supplies are being readied for distribution to shelters in Alabama.

Survivors in communities from Louisiana to Alabama are still reeling from the devastation caused by the worst natural catastrophe since Hurricane Katrina, and the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes since 1925. The epic storms claimed at least 350 lives, injured thousands, and left many more homeless. Power and water are still out in many areas. Experts estimate that damage costs will run into the billions. “This is going to rank as one of the worst tornado outbreaks in U.S. history,” said FEMA director Craig Fugate.

The once-bustling town of Smithville has been leveled by a monstrous 205 mph tornado. Fourteen are confirmed dead, more than 50 of the town’s 1,000 residents are missing and feared dead, and hundreds more are homeless. Our disaster relief expert, ET Theotokatos, was escorted by the National Guard though the battered heart of town to the Access Family Health Clinic, which lost its roof and sustained heavy damage.

"I witnessed utter destruction. I could count only four standing structures.” he said. “A whole trailer park had been whisked away. Town hall -- destroyed. Police station -- gone. And house after house reduced to rubble."

One of the 150 homes destroyed in Smithville
 
Storm damage to the Smithville Health Clinic

The clinic’s doctors, nurses and staff who survived the storm are determined to care for both uninsured patients who rely on their services and the many victims of the monumental disaster. There is growing concern that people who have lost their livelihoods will lose their insurance, placing a steep rise in demand on safety net clinics in storm-ravaged states.

The following day, Theotokatos traveled to Birmingham, AL to meet with clinics and shelters who have requested help. Partnering with Feeding America and Nestle Water North America, AmeriCares has sent seven trucks of water, and is preparing additional shipments of aid and crucial medicines for health care providers to supply to patients who have lost their homes in Tuscaloosa, Cullman, and Birmingham -- areas which endured massive destruction.

“AmeriCares will be there to help communities recover from this tragic disaster as residents rebuild their homes and their lives,” he said.

Alabama is by far the worst-hit state, with nearly 250 deaths, including 45 in the city of Tuscaloosa alone where a mile-wide tornado devastated the city, wiping out entire neighborhoods. Hundreds remain missing and thousands are homeless.

AmeriCares responds immediately to disasters: tornadoes in the South, hurricanes in the Gulf, floods in the Pacific Northwest, wildfires in the West. Wherever disaster strikes in the U.S. and around the world, we are ready to help save lives and restore health and hope.