Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Despues de las tormentas - after the storms

This video from El Faro makes a statement more powerful than words of the sorrow, two days after devastating floods and mudslides hit the central and south central regions of El Salvador.

One impact of the floods and landslides will be food scarcity according to the World Food Program:
At least 10,000 Salvadorans are in urgent need of food aid after floods and mudslides destroyed huge swaths of crops during harvest season, the U.N. World Food Program said Tuesday.

President Mauricio Funes told reporters the death toll had risen to at least 160, but lowered the number of homeless to 12,930. Dozens of people remained missing....

The WFP is helping feed 500 people in shelters in San Vicente, one of the worst-hit provinces, the U.N. agency said in a statement. But it said thousands more would need help in the coming days.

"Severe flooding washed away entire harvests, homes and livelihoods," said Dorte Ellehammer, WFP representative in El Salvador. "This disaster has compromised the food security of thousands of people."

The WFP said 90 tons of high-energy biscuits will be ready for distribution in two days, a supply that can feed 70,000 people for four days. Another 1,000 tons of food is also available in the country.

In Verapaz, a farming town on the slopes of the Chichontepec volcano, many residents lost their sugar and coffee crops. Cornelio Lobato said his family returned to their ruined home to find that only their rooster, Pipo, had survived by flying up a mango tree.

"We have nothing, no money, nothing. But we're not going to eat Pipo. He is the only thing we have left, and we are going to take care of him until he dies," he said.

The Salvadoran government is still evaluating the extent of damage to beans, corn and other crops. The WFP said it was difficult to assess the situation because road and bridge collapses left many communities reachable only by helicopter.(from AP)

Juan Jose Dalton provided a first hand description yesterday of the chaos from the flooding:
San Salvador - The sky above Salvadoran capital El Salvador appeared clear Monday: a radiant sun shone to dry the remnants of a weekend of weather chaos that changed whole landscapes.

Police chief Carlos Ascensio confirmed the deaths of 130 people as heavy rains - which came amid a cold front and the remainders of Hurricane Ida - set off mudslides and sent rivers over their banks.

The number of dead could continue to rise. Civil protection officials were busy looking for survivors, and 40 people were still officially regarded as missing.

'Whole hamlets have been wiped off the map in the province of San Vicente,' Medardo Hernandez, the mayor of the town of San Vicente, told the German Press Agency dpa.

The outskirts of the town suffered heavy damage, as did the provinces of La Libertad, San Salvador, Cuscatlan, La Paz and Usulutan, in central El Salvador.

There was no immediate evaluation of the damage, pending an evaluating mission from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean

However, it was already quite clear that much of El Salvador was a disaster area. The Panamericana road - the small Central American country's main road, crossing from east to west - looked like the site of bombing.

More mudslides were threatening.

'It is a very major risk to drive on these roads, but people have to go to work and go to places, it's inevitable,' said the driver of a medium-distance bus.

Employees of the Ministry of Public Works were chopping fallen trees and removing collapsed posts. Locals were cooperating too, although in many areas it was impossible to remove the huge debris without the help of mechanical shovels.

The damage was evident: television footage from the air showed the magnitude of the disaster. Mountains and volcanoes showed huge rifts that resulted from the mudslides, and new rivers were forged by the very heavy rain.

In the town of Verapaz, in San Vicente, mudslides from the Chinchontepec volcano wiped whole outlying hamlets off the map. The town centre was full of mud and rocks.

According to the authorities, 1,570 homes suffered serious damage and 209 others were completely destroyed. Hundreds of trees were pulled out, as well as scores of powerline posts.

As many as 108 mudslides swept through mountain areas, and 87 shelters were set up to hold about 9,000 people, officials said.
There is a disaster relief clearinghouse site at ReliefWeb, many NGOs which will be providing relief in El Salvador are posting their information here. ReliefWeb is probably the most comprehensive source for learning about organizations which you can contact if you want to provide assistance. In addition to organizations listed on ReliefWeb, other solidarity organizations with a long history of work in the country are soliciting assistance:

Video of the damage and sorrow in Verapaz

1 comment:


Salvadoran commentators refer to "vulnerabilidad" and "inseguridad" in assessing the country's status, after being lashed by high incidence of crime, by calamitous rains, and, lest we forget, by the H1N1 virus. Clearly, if there was any country that was rendered vulnerable and faced critical security challenges, El Salvador in 2009 is that country. But, some of the greatest abuses of power in history have the term "security" and the feeling of exceptional vulnerability attached to them. El Salvador's case is made more conspicuous by the presence of a charismatic leader with soaring popularity ratings who is flexing his muscle, applauded as he deploys the army to fight petty crime -- a notion that would have given people chills in decades past, when the same army was used to oppress the populace. To make matters worse, President Mauricio Funes is facing down an opposition in shambles. The moment is critical and in his hands is the power to destroy, or he can exercise prudence and restraint and thus break through to a new paradigm and democratic epoch for El Salvador. Funes has a chance to be Hugo Chavez, if he wants to. He can make a power grab, right now, and attain awesome authority. Or he can be Abraham Lincoln. We watch with baited breath.