Outside, destroyed houses, fallen trees with exposed roots. Inside, camp beds line up in front of tables laden with food. In Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where a tornado brought chaos and death, relief efforts are being organized and volunteers from nearby towns are arriving.
Less than 24 hours after the tornado swept through this southeastern US city on Friday night, the local Red Cross moved into a National Guard building.
One room serves as an infirmary, an ambulance is parked at the entrance, and through the back door, boxes full of granola bars and baby diapers arrive.
“We’re trying to give people a place to spend the night with food and medical care so they can have a place to rest because they’ve lost everything,” said John Brown, Red Cross manager for Alabama and Mississippi.
Rolling Fork, with just 2,000 people, “feels like a war zone,” as if a “bomb went off,” adds the employee.
At least 25 people died in Mississippi as a result of the tornado.
Whether or not they choose to stay at the assistance center, residents receive information about the situation, eat and recover a minimum of strength to face the difficult moment, adds Brown.
This is the case of Anna Krisuta, 43, and her son Álvaro Llecha, 16, sitting on a bed, he on a chair, with energy drinks placed in front of him.
Her house is “in pieces”, says Anna Krisuta with a brave smile. The two take out their cell phones to show the extent of the damage, recorded on video.
They are still not sure if they will spend the night in this center. Maybe they prefer to “sleep in the car”, says Álvaro, looking doubtfully at his mother.
The teenager assures that he owes his life exclusively to the fact that he hid in the bathroom, the room he considered the safest in the house.
“I thought I was going to die”, he says, anguished, remembering above all the violent wind “that hit the lower part of the door” of the family home.
– “Injustice” –
Coming from Vicksburg, about 70 km from Rolling Fork, volunteer Lauren Hoda cannot hide the mixture of “sadness”, “pain” and “anger” she feels for the “injustice” inflicted on the residents.
“When I woke up this morning, I felt like crying for the people of this town because I don’t think they had much time before the (tornado) hit. There were people eating in the restaurant, families in their beds,” says this 28-year-old, who claims to have experienced another major natural disaster: Hurricane Katrina, in 2005.
Hoda spent Saturday night at Rolling Fork, carrying the collected donations: water, food, preserves, diapers, pads, medicine, deodorants, toothpaste, you name it.
Jon Gebhardt, an assistant professor of military science at the University of Mississippi, Oxford – a three-hour drive from Rolling Fork – says he arrived in the middle of the night after the tornado hit to help set up the center.
Because of the “pain and anguish” reported by residents, “today I cried a lot”, he admits. “But this morning when I woke up and saw the generosity and ability of this community to come together in such a difficult time,” he felt “lucky to be in Mississippi.”
To the question of whether the physical and moral reconstruction of the city could be carried out in a few weeks, he replied “no”. “Can this population become a better version of itself in the coming years? Yes, I believe in that, ”he says, confident in the“ resilience ”of the Mississippi Delta.
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