Friend Ships to the rescue

<p class="indent">Friend Ships, a faith-based humanitarian organization based in north Lake Charles, returned home on Tuesday after spending a week providing relief for rural North Carolina residents impacted by Hurricane Florence.</p><p class="indent">Seventeen relief workers aided in rescues, food distribution and delivered supplies to devastated communities. The relief team included the “Sea Hawks,” young adults who sign up for a year-long residential experience.</p><p class="indent">With a high-water military truck, helicopter, flatbottom boats and various other rescue supplies, the team headed north. But road closures forced them to stop in Pembroke, NC. There, Murray Douglas, Sea Hawks commander, said law enforcement flagged them down for assistance.</p><p class="indent">“We ran the full gamut on this one,” said Douglas, who has worked multiple flood relief efforts, including the 2016 flooding in Baton Rouge.</p><p class="indent">Community officials assessed damage by helicopter as the river rose 19 feet, creating impassable roads and unlivable conditions. Stranded residents and animals were rescued by boat, and a “dining room” was set up for rest and commodity distribution.</p><p class="indent">Rescuing livestock was a first for Douglas.</p><p class="indent">“Just the gratitude when we came up on people and they said, ‘My horse is stuck,’ ” he said. “Their family was safe. They were safe. But the animals are so important, too.”</p><p class="indent">Douglas said rescuing family pets was something residents, especially the elderly, were thankful for.</p><p class="indent">“You know, that’s their companion and just being able to reunite them, for some of them, was the biggest possible thing we could’ve done,” he said. “It gives them a little bit of extra hope.”</p><p class="indent">The team also helped residents wade through floodwaters to higher ground.</p><p class="indent">“The water doesn’t have to be deep to freak somebody out,” Douglas said.</p><p class="indent">Friend Ships also held community worship services because most churches were flooded or abandoned.</p><p class="indent">“People are so hungry to have their church community, and they’re gone,” said Sondra Tipton, director.</p><p class="indent">The newest intake of Sea Hawks arrived just one week before being deployed to the Carolinas. Oregon native Isaac Cline, 19, said he was “a long way from floods and hurricanes.” But seeing Florence’s impact and the community banding together in recovery was an “eye-opening” experience, he said.</p>

<span style="font-weight: bold;">‘The water doesn’t have to be deep to freak somebody out.’</span>

<span style="font-weight: bold;">Murray Douglas</span>

Sea Hawks commander

””<p>Friend Ships volunteers transport cases of bottled water across an impassable road in North Carolina.</p>Special to the American Press””<p>A Friend Ships relief worker rescues a miniature pony in North Carolina. Hurricane Florence forced the local river to rise 19 feet flooding fields and barns.</p>Special to the American Press