As the deluge caused by Hurricane Harvey continues to engulf Texas, international disaster relief agency with Response Team members in the disaster zone is planning to send aid that will bring some comfort to families who have fled their homes.
International disaster relief agency ShelterBox is talking to US authorities, to its USA colleagues, and its Texas-based Response Team members about how it can help some of the 30,000 people who have had to flee their homes since Hurricane Harvey made landfall last Friday. Floodwaters are expected to rise further in some parts of already-inundated Houston, USA’s fourth largest city, where thousands have been forced from their homes.
Most are being housed in vast evacuation centres in buildings such as sports halls and community centres. There is the possibility of tents being sent from the ShelterBox warehouse in Cornwall to be offered as ‘privacy tents’ to be pitched within the evacuation buildings.
ShelterBox Operations Special Deployment Lead, James Luxton, explains, ‘These tents will give families a private space to help preserve dignity and aid recovery. They offer togetherness in these huge communal facilities where people naturally feel exposed and distressed after quitting their homes. This is an unusual response for ShelterBox, but we have responded in a similar way before, including in Japan after the 2011 Tsunami.’
ShelterBox HQ in the UK is working closely with its ShelterBox USA affiliate colleagues to understand how we can help the families affected by Hurricane Harvey.
James adds, ‘We have two local Texan ShelterBox Response Team members on the ground who are talking to authorities about how we can help. Our normal ShelterKits and tents are not appropriate for the conditions families are experiencing in Texas.’
The flooding is covering large swathes of land, and is set to rise even further in the coming days, making indoor shelter the best option.
This is an unprecedented natural disaster, among the worst in USA history, with levels of damage expected to be near those caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the costliest natural disaster ever to hit the USA. Hurricane Harvey is predicted to bring a year’s worth of rainfall over the coming days, with flooding anticipated to continue over next few days, spreading further across Texas and into Louisiana.
Bruce Heller is a ShelterBox Response Team member, heads up the ShelterBox Ambassador team in Texas, and has been on the ShelterBox USA Board for two years. A member of the Rotary Club of Allen Sunrise, he works in real estate, so is devastated to see so much of Texas underwater.
Bruce says, ‘As a Rotarian and a ShelterBox Response Team Member I am proud to be able to respond in my home state of Texas, where so many are suffering as a result of this storm. As people of action, the best thing Rotarians can do to help in moments like these is to lend support to trusted partners, like ShelterBox, who are experienced in disaster response and who can make sure aid is being allocated appropriately, where need is greatest.’
ShelterBox Chief Executive, Chris Warham, says,
ShelterBox works hard to understand the needs of families affected by all sorts of different and complex emergency situations, and we are prepared to respond quickly across the world. This year’s hurricane season is predicted by meteorologists to be severe, so we are prepared to respond whenever we are needed.
‘We have a flexible range of aid that includes tools, tents, tarpaulins, solar lights and other equipment for families to make urgent shelter or repair buildings where there is no other possible provision.
Our aid can be used to create a temporary base in communities or refugee camps, but it can also be portable for people moving from one place to the next. In Texas we are offering a unique ‘shelter within shelters’ solution which is appropriate to those specific conditions.’
ShelterBox is currently also active in the Syrian region, Iraq, Cameroon, Niger, Colombia and Somaliland. Last year it responded to the last major tropical storm to threaten this region, as Hurricane Matthew cut through Haiti, Cuba and on to the Eastern seaboard of the USA.
Notes To Editors
- Banner image courtesy of Thomas B. Shea/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images