Samaritan’s Purse flies from PTI to St. Maarten to help Irma victims

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A group traveling from the Piedmont Triad is focusing its recovery efforts in the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma barreled through several small island countries.

Samaritan's Purse sent 14 disaster relief specialists to St. Maarten on Friday afternoon. The plane took off from Piedmont Triad International Airport with 20 tons of emergency supplies.

Once crews unload those supplies Friday night, the plane is heading straight back to the Triad to load up once again and head wherever they're needed most.

"Every disaster response is different, so we don't know what to expect when we get on the ground," said Kaitlyn Lahm, a Samaritan's Purse representative.

"There's extensive damage to property, to the road system," said Dave Holzhauer, the disaster response team lead.

The victims' lives also need repair in St. Maarten. Food, water, clothing and other supplies will go straight to the 2,000 families affected by Hurricane Irma.

About 95 percent of their homes are damaged and about 60 percent of them are destroyed and unlivable.

"A disaster of this magnitude doesn't just affect you physically, but it also really takes a toll on families emotionally and spiritually," Lahm said. "So what our team wants to do is help them with those physical needs while also reminding them they're not alone in this."

When a disaster of this scale hits, things that we take for granted become crucial necessities.

"Emergency shelter materials, water filtration units, blankets, hygiene kits," Lahm said.

The disaster response team getting on this plane has long days ahead. They've all been part of disaster recovery before.

"You never fully get used to seeing the damage and the loss that people suffer," Holzhauer said.

They say it's nothing compared to what these hurricane victims are facing and the months, or years, of recovery still ahead.

"It's an honor and a privileged to go down and serve these people," Holzhauer said.

Leaders with Samaritan's Purse aren't sure where the plane will head next. Their emergency coordinators are in touch with local authorities in the Caribbean and Florida to figure out which areas need what kind of help.

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