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September 7, 2016 3:23 pm

Israeli Aid Volunteer: Louisiana Flood Victims ‘Incredibly Grateful’ for Our Help (INTERVIEW)

avatar by Lea Speyer

The IsraAID team in Louisiana. Photo: Elise Apap / IsraAID.

The IsraAID team in Louisiana. Photo: Elise Apap / IsraAID.

Louisianans affected by recent flooding are “incredibly grateful” for Israel’s role in recovery efforts, a volunteer with a humanitarian group told The Algemeiner.

“People here are so moved by the fact that we came all the way from Israel to help them,” said Talya Feldman, an IsraAID volunteer who is on the ground in Baton Rouge assisting in recovery efforts, after a devastating flash flood destroyed thousands of homes across the state. 

“Most people here have never met an Israeli before. It is a very powerful experience for many to see our huge team come in with shirts proudly displaying the Israeli flag,” she told The Algemeiner.

Feldman recounted entering the home of a woman, all of whose possessions were destroyed. The woman wept at the sight of the volunteers, and thanked “Jesus for sending someone from Israel to help me.”

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The 10-man IsraAID team — which is partnering with the US-based group Team Rubicon — arrived in Louisiana on August 30 for a two-week mission. Feldman said it is the only foreign organization aiding in local recovery efforts. Over 109,000 people have been affected by the flood, which has caused an estimated $8.7 billion in damage.

According to Feldman, the IsraAID team had to wait for the flood waters — which reached great heights in some areas — to recede, before engaging in “muck and gut” efforts. 

The IsraAID team in Louisiana. Photo: Elise Apap / IsraAID.

The IsraAID team in Louisiana. Photo: Elise Apap / IsraAID.

“All the houses are now rotting,” she said. “When we reach a home identified as high-priority — such as one belonging to the elderly or to people without insurance — we first try to salvage as much as possible. Then we strip it down and spray for mold, allowing residents to begin reconstruction efforts more quickly and cheaply,” she told The Algemeiner.

Each such endeavor takes between one and two days to complete, she said, describing the overall situation as “somewhat eerie.”

“As you drive deeper into the city, you see massive piles of belongings everywhere,” she said. “Very personal items, like photo albums, are just sitting on the side of the road.”

Emotions on the ground, Feldman said, are a “mixed bag.” On the one hand, she said, “People are devastated because they have lost their most treasured possessions.” On the other hand, “It is absolutely amazing how positive they are, adopting a realistic attitude about their situation and grateful for all the help they can get.”

IsraAID is an Israel-based humanitarian aid agency that responds to emergency crises around the world and has responded to disasters in 35 countries over the last decade.

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