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Red Cross low on funds for disaster relief

Two hurricanes within weeks have strained resources


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(CNN) -- The American Red Cross says that it is strapped for cash in the wake of the two hurricanes that hit Florida in recent weeks.

Before Hurricane Charley, the first of two storms to hit the peninsula, the Red Cross had $850,000 available in its disaster fund.

"We estimate that the cost [of Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Frances] will be in excess of $63 million; so far the Red Cross has only been able to raise $35 million," said Peter Teahen, a spokesman for the organization in Florida.

That estimate, Teahen noted, does not include the potential cost of Hurricane Ivan, which is in the Caribbean and could hit Florida next week.

The Red Cross is still housing 1,302 people in shelters throughout Florida, Teahen said. Three shelters, housing 90 people, have been open since Hurricane Charley rumbled through the state August 13.

Teahen said people who want to help the effort in Florida can donate money by phone (1-800-435-7669) or online. (RedCross.orgexternal link).

A shortfall of money is not the only problem facing the Red Cross.

"We have a blood [supply] crisis," Teahen said.

The summer is traditionally a low point for blood supplies, but after the two hurricanes, the shortfall is becoming critical, he said.

Shelters are also low on food because people are remaining longer than the typical one- or two-day stay, he said.

Red Cross personnel have been hit hard by the storms, too.

"A lot of our local volunteers came in to help, only to eventually find that they too were victims in the wake of the storms," Teahen said of people who lost homes or whose homes were damaged.

"Most of our volunteers come in and rotate out after three weeks" Teahen said. Many of the 3,000 volunteers have stayed on longer and worked 12- and 14-hour days.


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