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Gainesville residents help Irene victims
Group plans to stay in Aurora, N.C., for about a week
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As residents across the east coast clean up after Hurricane Irene, a group of Gainesville residents continues to offer aid to those affected by the storm.

The group was deployed Monday to Aurora, N.C., which is part of the Inner Banks.

The storm is being blamed for at least 45 deaths in 13 states, as well as billions of dollars in damages. In North Carolina alone, Gov. Beverly Perdue said the hurricane destroyed more than 1,100 homes and caused at least $70 million in damages.

Lt. Matt Cunningham with the Salvation Army in Gainesville, said on Tuesday the group traveled to Hickory Point, an outlying area of Aurora, that required special clearance to enter.

"There's pretty bad devastation back there," he said. "We're actually feeding and serving two communities in there."

Cunningham said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is assessing the damage in the Hickory Point community and only homeowners and relief crews are allowed in the area.

The main priority for the Salvation Army group is to provide meals to residents. Cunningham said his group served about 900 meals on Monday alone.

In the area of Washington, N.C., which includes Aurora, Cunningham said the Salvation Army has six canteens providing about 1,000 meals per day each.

"Those are pretty substantial numbers," he said.

More than 2.5 million people from North Carolina to Maine were without electricity Tuesday, and Cunningham said power in Aurora is not expected be restored until today or Friday.

"It's still immediate need state," he said.

However, Cunningham said Aurora residents are regaining a sense of normalcy even without electricity.

"It's basically business as usual without power," he said. "None of the companies are open, but people are all over the place trying to clean up."

Konswello Monroe, spokeswoman for Georgia Power, said about 350 workers — six from Gainesville — were sent to Virginia to help restore power in the area along the Virginia-North Carolina border. She said they are expected to be there for about a week.

"They were initially scheduled to go to North Carolina, but North Carolina did not need the help, so they went on to Virginia," Monroe said.

The Salvation Army group planned to be deployed for up to 14 days, but Cunningham said they will not be there that long.

"Once the power starts coming back on we don't want to interrupt commerce, so we kind of step out of the way," he said. "They'll go into a second phase then which will be long term care and case work, helping them to get in new places and stuff like that."

The Northeast Georgia Red Cross chapter is also coordinating relief efforts. Philip Reed, executive director for the chapter, said 71 volunteers from Georgia have gone to various areas affected by the storms.

"They're helping in various functions," Reed said. "It could be operating a shelter or providing counseling mental health."

In addition to sending volunteers, the Georgia Red Cross sent its entire fleet of Emergency Response Vehicles, which are capable of powering essential equipment to assist in the disaster conditions.

Despite the destruction caused by the tropical storm, Cunningham said residents are reacting positively.

"Every disaster I go to it's amazing the resilient spirit that people have," he said. "They've lost their stuff but many times the answer is, ‘It's just stuff, we're all here, we're all taken care of.'"

Donations can be made to the Salvation Army Disaster Relief fund by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY or online.

The Red Cross is also requesting donations, which can be made by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or online.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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