Hurricane Irene Strengthens; Red Cross, UN Respond

08/24/2011 09:29 am ET | Updated Oct 24, 2011

As Hurricane Irene cuts a path from the Caribbean to the U.S., aid organizations are preparing to respond with relief efforts up and down the East Coast.

Irene could hit multiple spots on the East from Florida to New England, possibly reaching North or South Carolina this weekend and the Washington, D.C. area by Sunday, according to CBS.

The Red Cross is readying shelters and supplies for evacuees, putting into place emergency response vehicles and supplies and mobilizing disaster workers to parts of the country expected to be hit hard by the storm, according to its site.

Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Disaster Services for the Red Cross, said on the site: "People who live in or who are vacationing in the areas that could be affected by this storm need to get ready now."

Palm Beach County's public safety director Vincent Bonvento told CBS the area is making preparations: "We need to make a decision whether we're going to open up some of our special care facilities - how many shelters we're going to open up."

Irene tore through the Caribbean, hitting the Bahamas Wednesday. President Obama declared Puerto Rico an official disaster zone and the Dominican Republic and Haiti have reported evacuations and flooded roads, according to the Miami Herald.

In Haiti, the UN said aid has already ben established, according to Sky news. Rain and wind have pummeled the area, which is still reeling from the January 2010 earthquake that killed 225,000 and lead to a subsequent cholera outbreak.

The UN said that Haiti has been equipped with more than 100,000 shelters, food for 500,000 people for 26 days and medical kits. In addition, the peacekeeping mission in Haiti is "ready to intervene at any time," according to the Sky News.

Across the Caribbean, the Red Cross coordinated to evacuate residents ahead of time, dispatching volunteers to assist at shelters and to provide first aid.

The organization's disaster preparedness starts long before a hurricane actually hits, with supplies and equipment stocked and on standby at any given time. On average, the Red Cross spends about $450 million on disaster relief every year, according to the site.

The UN Emergency Response Fund and the Red Cross are both accepting donations for disaster relief efforts.

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