Red Cross needs help to deal with Gustav aftermath

NASHUA – Hurricane Gustav’s impact on the Gulf Coast was blessedly less severe than Hurricane Katrina three years ago, but volunteers are still desperately needed to help shelter tens of thousands of people displaced by the storm.

“The need is huge down there,” said Rebecca Justice, executive director of the Nashua Red Cross chapter. “Eight-hundred thousand people without power blows my mind. We also don’t know what may come up.”

Justice has issued a call for volunteers willing and able to help with the recovery and aid efforts under way in the storm-ravaged regions.

The chapter’s offices, at 28 Concord St., are staying open today until 4:30 p.m., Justice said. The chapter is now offering the 18 hours of training in things like shelter management, how to feed large groups of people and psychological first aid for free.

Nurses, doctors and mental health professionals are also needed, she said, along with millions of dollars in donations.

Almost 30 Red Cross volunteers from New Hampshire are already in the region. The Red Cross sheltered more than 22,000 people Thursday night and fed more than 100,000, according to a press release.

The Red Cross already has 5,000 volunteers in the area, but has only been able to keep up with immediate needs of the victims of one storm, Justice said. With power out to more than 800,000 people for the next two to eight weeks, the need for food, water and shelter will continue and is expected to cost somewhere between $40-$70 million, according to the Red Cross.

Public Service of New Hampshire, and its parent company, Northeast Utilities, sent 150 utility workers to the area to help rebuild power lines.

But more storms are on the way. The Red Cross is also preparing for Tropical Storm Hanna to strike somewhere along the east coast and for Hurricane Ike, a category three storm, to hit Florida or the Gulf Coast.

Another 2,500 volunteers will likely be needed to deal with the effects of Hanna. No estimates have been given for Hurricane Ike.

Justice said the three storms combined will likely cost the Red Cross more than $100 million.