USA (MNN) — The Oklahoma tornado that touched down Monday, May 20 has a rising death toll with hundreds wounded.
State and local authorities have asked outside relief responders to wait until the immediate aid efforts have a chance to move in and assess the damage.
While first responders in Oklahoma assess disaster sites, members of the Southern Baptist Convention started at least planning relief efforts when they are needed.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Southern Baptists started relief preparation on Tuesday at their North American Mission Board office in Alpharetta, northern Georgia.
“Oklahoma Baptists have a pretty large disaster relief volunteer operation, but they’ve already said they are going to need some extra help for this one,” said Mike Ebert, spokesman for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
On Tuesday morning, Ebert said, “The devastation is so massive; we’re hearing a 30-square-mile area.”
The team has already loaded several trucks with pallets of bottled water and rolls of roofing tarp. According to Ebert, “Our volunteers can patch up the homes that were damaged that are still functioning, still standing.
“We have the capacity to send in several hundred [volunteers] if that’s what’s needed,” he said. “Once we get to the point where we’re able to get in and help clear trees and help patch roofs, we will need a lot of volunteers to help with that.
“This response will require a lot of chain saw teams that can go in and clear trees and other debris, feeding teams that can go in and run our mobile kitchens, and things like that,” stated Ebert. “Georgia does have a lot of chain saw teams and mobile kitchens, so Georgia could very well be one of the groups that is mobilized for that.”
The International Mission Board, part of the Southern Baptist Convention, asks for prayer. “Pray that first responders will be able to quickly locate survivors and get them to safety. Pray for the families who lost everything in the storm, including those who lost loved ones. Pray for strength and discernment for leaders, rescue personnel, medical teams and volunteers; pray also for wisdom for churches in the area as they seek to minister to families.”