Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rain in abundance

Yesterday I got up well before dawn to take Kathy Garcia to the airport, and drove through a lot of fog and rain - no fun in the dark - to get there. All week, the sky overhead has been gray, and we've had heavy rains every day. The country is on a "green alert" because of the rains, rivers are overrunning their banks, and huge waves are reported on the coast.

Heavy rains are normal enough here, at this time of year. But five days of gray skies with no relief in sight? That never happens here. It almost feels like Seattle (but lots warmer). I have two weeks worth of clothes waiting to be washed, but until the sun comes out, it will be pretty hard to dry them.

The people who suffer in this weather - or any weather - are the poor, people whose houses have roofs of plastic or cardboard, people who can't afford to fix the roofs, people who live under earth banks that may collapse in the rains. The United Nations Development Program in El Salvador recently issued a two-volume study of areas of urban poverty and social exclusion in the country ("urban" is a bit misleading: the study mapped all areas with more than 50 dwellings, so only the truly rural areas are excluded). It's downloadable and fascinating for those who know a bit of El Salvador and like maps; it should be a great guide for the government's plans to build additional low-cost housing. Sadly the amount of poor housing is far greater than the government's resources for building new housing. Most of the poor, it seems, will continue to suffer in the heavy rains.

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