Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deluge of 2011 -- International aid coming to El Salvador


The chart above shows the relative magnitude of the rains of the past 8 days in El Salvador compared to other weather disasters.   While it should be remembered that rainfall amounts are very localized, and that the highest totals occurred in only a very few spots, it is still clear that this has been a very extreme event.

At this link you can see a current radar map from weather.com which will play back the weather from the previous 36 hours.  You can also follow links from that page to see the current weather forecast.  Perhaps the most important forecast is the hydrological forecast from SNET which can be found here and which contains forecasted river levels and risks of flooding.  The forecast is in Spanish, but Google translate works pretty well with it for those who need an English translation.

International aid efforts are starting to help alleviate some of the needs in El Salvador.  Taiwan, Spain, the United States, Venezuela have all promised aid.  International humanitarian organizations are also at work.  For example, the World Food Program has been distributing emergency rations from a stockpile kept in El Salvador:
In coordination with the government of El Salvador, WFP has provided High Energy Biscuits to over 7,500 people – a total of 10 metric tons – who are currently in shelters in 27 communities. In Honduras more than 5,000 people have been assisted with 55 metric tons of food rations in close collaboration with local authorities whereas in Nicaragua, WFP in close cooperation with SINAPRED is prepositioning food in various areas of the country, including the indigenous areas of Rio Coco and Bocay. 
The regional response involves WFP’s Central American Humanitarian Response Centre in El Salvador. They were responsible for transporting 10 metric tons of High Energy Biscuits to Guatemala over the weekend and providing assistance with food distributions in El Salvador.  The Centre stocks primarily High Energy Biscuits which are available for quick regional deployments and complement the stocks of non-food items stored at the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) base in Panama.

ReliefWeb is a clearinghouse internet site where international relief organizations share information on natural and humanitarian disasters worldwide. The site is now aggregating information on these floods at this page. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has published an assessment report on the floods (in Spanish) which provides an overview of the impacts on the various nations in Central America and humanitarian needs.

Despite these efforts, there are still many areas which have received little or no real support, sometimes because roads are blocked by landslides and fallen trees.   Sometimes because they have just been overlooked.   Twitter today had many tweets taking the form  "Families in community XYZ need food"

I came across the following description on the website Examiner.com that in some ways summarizes the nature of this tragedy:
Central America doesn’t have the same standard of housing that many nearby countries adhere to. Many ‘houses’ are built from substandard materials such as wood, plastic and corrugated tin. Occasionally locally made cinder blocks are available but these are more expensive than recycled materials and when the rains come, ‘water-proof’ isn’t a condition anyone can count on. Having a simple roof over the family is about as good as it gets and when day after day of torrential downpours hammers the home-made hand-crafted structure they’ve built, odds are that something’s going to give. Adding to the misery, many homes are built on unstable hillsides or in flood-prone low lying areas. The best land is taken by the agricultural interests and the campesinos build on land that nobody else wants. Simply put, it’s a recipe for disaster when the rains are more than usual and that’s exactly what’s happened. When the clouds clear and the rivers eventually fall, the numbers of dead and missing will be counted again. The roads, those lifeblood routes of commerce, will be repaired some time later and the numerous bridges will be jury-rigged to allow the resumption of traffic. It’ll be a while before Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua return to normal: for those who’ve lost their homes, families and belongings, it may never happen.

1 comment:

Yael said...

Tim, thanks for all your coverage of this crisis. While most of the communities we work with in the Bajo Lempa have been evacuated, others are still cut off from contact. The authorities are doing their best but they are underresourced. Our local partners are scrambling to get enough food, medicine and basic supplies to the 4,900 people in shelters in the area. More info at vivaecoviva.wordpress.com