CEDAR RAPIDS — Pacifique Mushishi survived refugee camps in the Congo and has been living a similar existence since the Aug. 10 derecho hit Iowa with winds estimated at 140 mph.
The Cedar Terrace apartment complex where he had been living in southwest Cedar Rapids was decimated in the hurricane-force storm, and while he and other residents have been receiving help, they are returning to the apartments to try to pick up pieces of their lives.
More: See photos of damage from the derecho windstorm
One of his friends, also from the Congo, was looking for someone to assist with his car that was damaged in the storm, which wreaked havoc throughout the city and across the state and killed three Iowans.
Neither of the two, nor another friend from Rwanda, had heard of the FEMA assistance for which they might qualify. In the meantime, they were provided with hotel rooms for two weeks and said they appreciate the food offered by volunteers.
With rooftops ripped off some of the apartments, broken windows and other damage throughout, even surviving the windstorm was a feat, with the friends describing in French and broken English how neighbors in a nearby complex took children and others to their building’s lower level.
The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation created a disaster fund for derecho recovery. If you can, please donate at: www.gcrcf.org
The apartment dwellers were not the only ones still suffering in the 12th day of the derecho’s aftermath.
As of the morning of Aug. 21, more than 10,000 Linn County residents, mostly in Cedar Rapids and Marion, remained without electricity, with high temperatures forecast for this weekend.
A federal disaster declaration was finally approved for the state a full week after the derecho, but without the individual assistance that would help residents with costs not covered by insurance.
Linn County was approved Thursday, Aug. 20, to receive that aid through the federal individual assistance program, but so far, for the thousands of residents needing help with tree removal, no coverage was provided for that expensive task.
See more photos of damage from the derecho, below: