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Hurricane Irma: New Tampa mosque opens as shelter for first time

By Christopher O'Donnell, For Tampa Bay Times , On 14 September 2017, Read Original
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TAMPA — For now it's their hurricane shelter, but Muslim rules about removing your shoes are still being observed at a makeshift shelter set up at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque.

More than 500 people are planning to hunker down at the makeshift shelter set up at the mosque's multicultural center, which is now full. Most are Muslim, but the shelter was open to all people and is providing refuge for at least 50 non-Muslims, said Aida Mackic, a shelter organizer who is also the interfaith and youth program director with Council on American-Islamic Relations

Three large conference rooms are being used as the main sleeping quarters. One is for men, one for women, and there is a common area for families who want to remain together.

In each are dozens of cots, sun beds, quilts and other make-do beds.

"We've had to turn some people away," said Mackic. "There was even one woman who turned up with a bird in a covered cage."

It is the first time the building, which opened only last year, has been used as a shelter. It has showers and classrooms where people can store additional belongings. A make-shift medical area is manned by volunteer medical staff.

Mackic said the center has its own generator if power is lost. Her biggest worry is that they may run out of food and water. They plan to offer three meals a day over the duration of the storm.

"We are hopeful we have enough," she said.

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