Central America faces up to Hurricane Felix havoc

By staff writers
September 6, 2007

Hurricane Felix, which struck Nicaragua on Tuesday 5 September 2007, has destroyed 9,000 homes, according to the Nicaraguan government. 38 people are confirmed dead, with another 80 missing. Honduras and Guatemala have also been hit.

After battering the Nicaraguan coast with winds of up to 160 miles per hour, Felix advanced inland over Honduras and Guatemala, with heavy rains causing floods and mudslides. The worst of the storm has now passed, but a serious flood risk remains.

Church and Development agencies throughout Central America are standing by to respond, reports Christian Aid from the UK. Over the last few days partners have been monitoring rivers, supporting emergency evacuations, identifying emergency shelters and preparing teams to assess the damage.

In Nicaragua, the Atlantic coastal communities of Sandy Bar Bay and Bilwi, also known as Puerto Cabezas, have been particularly badly hit. Almost all the houses here have been damaged or destroyed. Water pipes, power cables and communications lines are down, and the death toll is rising.

As the storm passed by, partners in Nicaragua were closely monitoring developments in the most vulnerable areas, such as riverside communities.

A needs assessment is being carried out by ACT international, a network of church-based agencies that come together to co-ordinate humanitarian response work. Christian Aid is one of nine ACT members active in Nicaragua.

In Honduras, 30,000 people evacuated their homes as Felix blew in. Heavy rain has caused landslides and flooding, and the storm flattened houses in the eastern province of Gracias a Dios.

Communities in northern Honduras are closely monitoring the Ulúa and Chamelecón rivers, which are dangerously close to breaking their banks. The surrounding areas still are on red alert.

The Ulua is one of Honduras’ largest river systems and a flood could be disastrous.

Agencies in northern Honduras, in the regions of Choloma and Cortés, worked closely with local emergency committees as the storm approached.

For example, our partner CASM (the Mennonite Social Action Committee) provided fuel, ropes, waterproof jackets and boots to support emergency evacuations.

Now CASM has begun to assess the storm damage, focusing especially on farming and crop losses.

In Guatemala there are already reports of floods and mudslides, especially in the worst affected provinces of Izabal and Chiquimula. The River Cayuga has flooded and other rivers are dangerously full.

Christian Aid has six partners active in the areas under threat, and five of these are well-positioned to begin immediate relief activities if necessary, it says.

Bethania works in Chiquimula province, one of the areas on red alert. Christian Aid recently sent Bethania £10,000 for a disaster risk reduction project, to raise awareness of dangers such as landslides.

To donate: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/

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