Evacuations from coastal areas began in earnest yesterday, as a ‘potentially catastrophic’ hurricane threatened Central America. Church and development workers have been working with local emergency committees to help communities identify emergency shelters.
Hurricane Felix is a powerful category five hurricane – the highest rating possible. It has just struck the Caribbean coast of northeast Nicaragua, near the border with Honduras, with wind speeds of up to 160 miles per hour. Over the next two days, Felix is expected to sweep over Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.
UK-based international agency Christian Aid is anticipating serious damage, including floods and mudslides, and is monitoring the situation closely. ‘People here are very vulnerable and we are on high alert,’ said Claudia Herrera, Christian Aid’s programme officer for Honduras.
As Felix swept towards Nicaragua and Honduras, hurricane experts warned that the storm was ‘potentially catastrophic’. The last hurricane to make landfall in Honduras was Hurricane Mitch, which killed more than 9,000 people in 1998.
Christian Aid partners in Honduras’ northern provinces of Cortés and Colon are hopeful that their disaster risk reduction work will help protect lives and property as the hurricane roars past. Partners have been helping vulnerable communities here to develop local risk maps, early warning systems and emergency plans.
This work is part of a large international project targeting disaster-prone areas in countries such as Honduras, Malawi and Bangladesh. It is co-funded by Christian Aid and the British government’s Department for International Development.
Hurricane Felix is the second Atlantic storm this year to reach hurricane status. The first was Hurricane Dean, which a fortnight ago pummelled Haiti, Jamaica, Belize and Mexico, causing widespread destruction. Christian Aid partners in Jamaica are still helping people there recover.
The annual Atlantic hurricane season runs until November. Hurricane experts have predicted that the 2007 season will see more storms than usual due to warmer seas linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon. They forecast 16 tropical storms, of which nine will become full-scale hurricanes.
Like Felix, Hurricane Dean was also a category five hurricane at its strongest point. This is only the fourth Atlantic hurricane season since 1886 with more than one category five storm.