Red Cross steps up to provide shelter and aid

Relief agency must coordinate regional relief efforts from storm-locked Manhattan

Sometimes even the first responders are under siege.

About 100 staff of the American Red Cross in Greater New York have been bunkered at headquarters on 49th Street since Sunday morning, weathering Hurricane Sandy even as they attempt to coordinate and implement relief efforts across New York City, Long Island and Westchester.

The Rockaways, including fire-devastated Breezy Point, are a relief target for the regional American Red Cross based in Manhattan. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

“We’re working in shifts and sleeping when we can,” said Michael de Vulpillieres, a communications officer for the organization. “This is a massively huge disaster…. We’re not immune.”

On Tuesday morning, Red Cross teams fanned out across the five boroughs to try and assess the damage and pinpoint where more shelters and medium-term housing was needed for people whose homes suffered flooding and fires.

The organization operates a live map of available shelters where food, water and blankets are available. The Rockaway peninsula, which experienced extensive flooding as well as a fire that consumed 80 homes, is a primary focus.

“We’re here to insure that in the coming days and weeks, they have food and water and emotional support,” said de Vulpillieres. “Rockaways was really badly hit with not only flooding but fires that damaged dozens and dozens of houses.”

“This is the largest relief operation in many years,” he added. Nearly 11,000 people spent Monday night in 258 Red Cross shelters in 16 states, with about 2,000 of those in the New York City area. Those numbers are expected to grow as people seek refuge from flooded homes even though the wind and rain has dissipated.

As a result, the organization is looking for volunteers to help run shelters while also planning on bringing in disaster relief workers from around the country. However, with airports shut down until at least Wednesday, it is a struggle to find means of transport. The problem is further exacerbated by the regional scale of the disaster. Red Cross chapters in half a dozen states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania are also trying to mitigate the wide-ranging effects of the storm.

One consequence of the storm is that Red Cross offices in 16 states were forced to shut down blood drives, leading to a shortfall of 3,200 blood and platelet donations and concerns that the national blood supply would run low.

“Patients will still need blood despite the weather,” said Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer of the Red Cross on Monday.

Meanwhile, both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney called for concerned Americans to donate to the Red Cross.

As of Tuesday, the American Red Cross in Greater New York did not have figures yet available for donations coming in but encouraged people to donate to the regional chapter.

“We prefer people to donate where the need is greatest and we’ll have an opportunity to earmark that money,” said de Vulpillieres.

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  1. Okay if you pinpointed the Rockaways on TUESDAY, then WHERE ARE YOU??? My husband was there today and NO ONE is there. These people have no shelter.

  2. The Red Cross is a volunteer agency, not a government agency and is doing fantastic work in Long Island and New Jersey, staffing hundreds of shelters. According to the Red Cross, the city has been operating all of the shelters in NYC. The Red Cross must cooperate with the local governments that ask to work with them. Consequently, local volunteers have been sent to Long Island where they are badly needed. The Red cross trucks (ERV’s) appear to be coming from out of state. In the meantime, local community groups are doing their best to get food & water to people in the Rockaway’s and other affected areas.

  3. Apparently your rescuers need to be in a union to give a hand…
    Ask those power company guys that drove from Alabama to help you idiots

  4. My neighbors have no power they are in need of some blankets at very least. Is there any information anyone can give about getting blankets to my neighbors. I would be happy to pick up blankets and hand them out to all my neighbors with no power. There are small children and older folks who are cold. I will come if it is near by to east northport ( as gas is a problem) 631-368-5753 Please call: Also is there any place for people in this area to get some hot coffee and something to eat, a place to stay warm for a couple of hours? I can give out information while I hand out blankets. There about 50 plus people in need in the area to my home in east northport near St Anthony’s Church.

    • The Red Cross has not been running all the shelters in NYC. Those shelters have been run by the City and volunteers from the MRC and CERT units as well as other volunteers. The Red Cross will be taking over the shelters at some point and has some shelters of their own I believe.