The RRT, part of the organization founded by American evangelist Billy Graham, said Hurricane Ike is affecting a large geographic area. It has shattered dozens of windows on Texas' tallest skyscraper, the 75-story JP Morgan Chase Tower in downtown Houston. Nearly every window on one side of the tower's first 30 floors was blown out the group said.
"We are just minutes away from leaving to go help those folks so devastated by Hurricane Ike," added Jack Munday, director of the RRT, at a press conference held at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) headquarters. "The RRT will provide spiritual and emotional care to those along the coastline of more than 300 miles (480 kilometers). We recognize that although the sun has come up, it will be a long time before those folks see daylight," he said.
"As we speak they are getting the back side of the storm, which is the worst. We've been in communication with churches there and will finalize plans once we set up a temporary base in Baton Rouge." It comes as both the RRT and its sister organization Samaritan’s Purse still have workers and volunteers operating in multiple areas of Louisiana following Hurricane Gustav’s landfall on Labor Day.
Ken Barun, senior vice president at BGEA, said his organization devotes time and resources to disaster relief to show God's love. "This is obviously a very devastating storm so we are trying to send as many people as we can there to share the love of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is part of everything we do and certainly, this is a vehicle for evangelism. By counseling people, we’ll hopefully lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ."
RRT said in a statement that, "Evangelism is part of everything we do and certainly, this is a vehicle for evangelism. By counseling people, we’ll hopefully lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ. While the Rapid Response Team will attend to the spiritual and emotional needs of victims, Samaritan’s Purse will meet the physical needs brought about by Hurricane Ike."
Samaritan's Purse said it will dig people out, take trees down, put plastic on roofs, deliver water purification systems and generators, and provide help and relief in a very difficult time. Franklin Graham, the president of both BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse: "We’ll get as dirty as we have to get to earn the right to share the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ just one time."
They faced an uphill battle as massive storm had so far prevented them and authorities from responding to thousands of emergency calls overnight into this Saturday morning. Officials said they are particularly concerned about the safety of thousands of people who defied evacuation orders in Galveston and the surrounding area, where the storm first made landfall.
Large sections of Galveston were left underwater from massive flooding. Winds of more than 110 miles (175 kilometers) per hour also knocked out power lines, and spawned fires that officials had to let burn. United States President George Bush called Hurricane Ike a "huge storm" that is causing great damage. In a statement at the White House he said he is sending Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff to the Gulf Coast region to assist officials with the recovery effort.
Bush also announced that his administration had extended environmental waivers on imported gasoline, in order to offset the disruption of US. fuel facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. Gasoline prices have gone up across the country because of concerns about possible supply shortages, the Voice of America (VOA) network reported.
Weather monitors said Hurricane Ike was still bringing heavy wind and rains to the Houston area, but was expected to weaken as it continues moving farther inland to the north and east.