Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mud mauls El Salvador poor

Toronto Star
11/9/2009

VERAPAZ, El Salvador – Torrents of mud and boulders choked the streets of Verapaz on Sunday as an onslaught of rain-fed flooding was blamed for at least 124 deaths throughout El Salvador with five dozen others missing.[NOTE: Other news accounts give a figure of 130 deaths to date]

Almost 7,000 people, many of them poor cliff dwellers, saw their homes damaged, destroyed or cut off by floods and mudslides.

Rescue workers dug frantically for victims, but the mud floes were high enough in places to nearly swallow vehicles. Many streets were blocked with boulders.

"What happened in Verapaz was something terrible," said Interior Minister Humberto Centeno, who flew over the city Sunday.

At least 23 people were killed in San Vicente province, where Verapaz is located, and at least 60 were missing in the city, 40 kilometres east of the capital, San Salvador.

Provincial Governor Manuel Castellanos said workers were struggling to clear roads, and power and water service had been cut off.

At least 300 houses in Verapaz were flooded after a river overflowed its bank, Red Cross spokesman Carlos Lopez Mendoza said.

The rains unleashed massive rock slides from the Chichontepec volcano that buried several other houses, Verapaz Mayor Antonio Cerritos told Radio Nacional.

In San Salvador, authorities reported 61 dead, including a family of four trapped when a mudslide buried their home.

Elsewhere in the country, victims were buried by slides or carried away by raging rivers.

Poverty and precarious construction appeared to play a role, as homes clinging to steep hillsides quickly fell prey to mudslides.

The area was slammed by three days of heavy rains indirectly connected to Hurricane Ida, which is continuing north and expected to hit the United States on Tuesday.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

This time the organization that gets our vote as the most likely to make effective use of your charitable dollars is SHARE Foundation. They have a faith and justice, hands-on approach without a lot of money spent on advertising and overhead. Plus they are another group that is worth getting to know. Here is SHARE's write-up on the situation and you can also donate through their Web site:

While the National Hurricane Center in the United States has downgraded Hurricane Ida to a Tropical Storm, El Salvador has experienced the full brunt of hurricane force winds and rain. Over the weekend, the storm destroyed more than 7,000 homes and damaged many more. The most recent data, reported this morning in the Prensa Gráfica, indicates that approximately 130 people have been killed by the storm, and thousands more injured. This total is sure to rise as emergency relief workers continue to work their way through damaged buildings and areas that have experienced landslides.

The community of Verapaz in the department of San Vicente was left badly damaged by mud, rocks and debris after a mudslide from the San Vicente Volcano. Because the heavy rains rapidly made the land on the foothills of the volcano quite unstable, water quickly engulfed much of the town and many people did not have time to prepare or
escape.

As is often the case in these sorts of situations, the most immediate problems include access to emergency shelter, access to potable water, and food. SHARE Foundation, in collaboration with its partners in the three zones of San Salvador, La Paz and San Vicente, will be working to provide emergency relief. This will include distribution of plastic sheeting and wood for temporary housing; food and water.

We ask that you lend your support to this effort by making a contribution for emergency relief in response to Hurricane Ida. You can do this by way of a secure
online donation via our website
or by mailing a check to:

SHARE
Foundation
P.O. Box 29620
Washington, DC 20017 (please write Hurricane Ida relief in the memo line)

Other ways you can help:

  • Organize fundraising efforts within your local churches and other community
    groups.
  • Post a note to your facebook, twitter or other social networking websites
    calling attention to the crisis in the wake of Hurricane Ida and encourage your
    friends and family members to make a contribution to the relief efforts via our
    website.
  • Pray for the victims of Hurricane Ida and their family members affected by
    this weekend’s tragedy

Please do not hesitate to call our office at 202.319.5540 or send an email to jose@share-elsalvador.org if you have any questions.

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