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Editorial: Right steps help maximize relief for twister victims

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The scenes in Moore, Okla., following last week’s deadly and devastating tornado are almost indescribable.

According to an Associated Press report, roofs were torn off houses, exposing metal rods left twisted like pretzels. Cars sat in heaps, crumpled and sprayed with caked-on mud. Insulation and siding was smashed against the sides of any walls that remained standing. Yards were littered with pieces of wood, nails and pieces of electric poles.

Children from a school were among the dead, but several students were pulled alive from under a collapsed wall and other mounds of mangled debris. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain of parents and neighborhood volunteers. Parents carried children in their arms to a triage center in the parking lot. Some students looked dazed, others terrified.


After watching the recovery work, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said, “It was an incredible sight to see how big the debris field was and how much destruction there was. It would be remarkable for anyone to survive.”

The death toll has topped two dozen, including at least nine children. Scores remain hospitalized.

For Hoosiers who witnessed the devastation following the Henryville tornado in March 2012, the scenes are eerily reminiscent. The wide swath of devastation was clearly evident for miles through the southern Indiana countryside.

But it appears the Oklahoma tornado was even wider and far more deadly.

Our hearts go out to the people of Moore, a community of 56,000, 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, just as they did a year ago in Henryville and the other Indiana communities ravaged by a tornado.

And we will be moved to help.

But to be most effective, that help should be done through organized charities focused on specific portions of rescue, cleanup and rehabilitation. Instead of loading a truck with shovels, buckets and cases of bottled water, give money to organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army that already are on the scene helping victims sort out their lives.

Later, as families begin to rebuild, don’t simply show up to help. Offer your services through a group that has a specific mission and is working through the proper authorities. That way, that help can be utilized most effectively.

Using the Henryville disaster as an example, volunteers from Johnson County worked through the United Way in Jeffersonville. They were given training and assigned a specific site to work on. That way, there would be less confusion and greater safety.

In the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma tornado, the greatest need is for money. Donations made through national relief organizations can be pooled and put to best use. Supplies can be purchased in bulk and shipped in the most cost-effective way.

If your gift isn’t needed immediately, it will be banked and utilized when the next disaster hits.

Another way to help is to donate blood at an Indiana Blood Center facility or a mobile donation drive. While the blood might not be needed in Oklahoma, it will help restock depleted supplies or be used locally where there is an immediate need.

Disasters such as last week’s tornado in Oklahoma or last year in southern Indiana prompt us to reach out and help. We encourage that.

The recovery process, as we have seen in southern Indiana, will take months. So there will be a continuing need for assistance for a significant time to come.

Your gifts are important. Just be careful how you donate.

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