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Here’s how you can help the victims of Baltimore’s gas explosion — and what not to do

A second person was found dead among rubble overnight following a gas explosion that leveled three houses on Labyrinth Road in Pikesville Monday morning.

After Monday’s gas explosion in Northwest Baltimore, which killed two people and critically injured several others, locals flocked to the Reisterstown Plaza shopping center nearby to donate clothes, water bottles and other supplies.

The makeshift aid site now has a large pile of donations, according to the Red Cross, so, at the moment, officials are asking people not to drop off clothing or other items.

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“We had more people show up with in-kind donations than we anticipated,” said Misty Bruce, the executive director of the Central Maryland Branch of the Red Cross. “There’s still a huge pile there of stuff, so at this time the best thing for people to do is hold on those in-kind donations.”

The COVID-19 outbreak makes managing donations even more difficult, Bruce added.

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“When you have a ton of people coming to a site like that, it’s really challenging to manage crowd control,” she said.

Instead, individuals should donate to the Red Cross Central Maryland Chapter online, Bruce said. Those donations will help provide immediate financial assistance to disaster survivors, she said.

After disasters like yesterday’s explosion, the Red Cross gives debit cards to affected individuals so they can purchase whatever they need, Bruce said.

As of Tuesday morning, about a dozen people were in hotels as a result of the blast, Bruce said, adding that there’s more than enough clothing and other supplies on hand for those who need it. The Red Cross also helped serve about 400 lunches on Monday and 500 dinners, Bruce added.

But in the coming weeks, as the displaced victims find new permanent homes, they’ll need more support from the community.

“When I say we don’t need anything right now, that means we have our clients in a nice holding spot,” she said. “There’s only so much you can pack into a hotel room.”

In the future, the Red Cross may put out calls for particular items their clients need, Bruce said.

“They’re gonna to need spoons, they’re gonna need a coffee pot,” she said. “Every single thing is gone.”

The Central Maryland Red Cross is also in need of volunteers, Bruce said, since they’re currently responding to the blast, Hurricane Isaias and a large fire in Montgomery County impacting multiple families.

“We’re responding to three disasters right now at the same time,” she said, “so our people reserve is stretched pretty thin.”

Interested volunteers can also sign up on the Central Maryland chapter’s website, Bruce said. They will need to go through a background check before they can help on the ground, but they can ask to be placed at particular site, Bruce said. It’s unlikely that volunteers will still be needed to help victims of Monday’s explosion by that time, Bruce said, but the Red Cross is looking to build up its reserve of volunteers, since the Central Maryland Branch responds to 30 to 40 fires per week in the Baltimore area alone.

Volunteers with medical experience, mental health expertise or experience with spiritual guidance are particularly sought after, Bruce said.

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“We really need people who live in the community, who know the community, who care about the community to respond,” Bruce said.

The Greater Baltimore Church is also hosting a prayer vigil and supplies drop off for the explosion victims in the parking lot of the Reisterstown Road Applebee’s Saturday at 1 p.m. They are asking donors to bring water bottles, ice and toiletries, as well as packaged food and masks.

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