Thursday, October 13, 2011

A long and terrible day of rain

Sixteen inches of rain - that's what's fallen in Sonsonate, in the west close to the border with Guatemala, in one long and terrible day. Three deaths have been reported, many homes have been damaged or destroyed, and 4,000 people have been evacuated. This disaster doesn't even get a name, unlike hurricanes: it's registered as Tropical Depression 12 E.

In addition to the communities in the west, all the coastal areas have endured huge downpours and are also endangered by flooding rivers. Here's a recent update from Voices from El Salvador on the current situation in the Baja Lempa area (where the Lempa, El Salvador's biggest river, rolls through flat coast lands on its way to the sea):

The Lempa River is currently flowing over the levee in the northern top of the Namcuchaname Forest and the levee in the community of El Marillo. The levee breech has sent a large current of water through the community and completely flooded the main road cutting off access to the communities downstream. As we reported earlier, the Lempa River has also breeched the levee in the Lotes and Babilonia communities. As of this afternoon, the focus of the evacuations is on the Lotes and Babilonia communities, which have been flooded since yesterday. However, the Civil Protection Agency and other government officials have called on ALL communities in the Lower Lempa, from San Marcos on down, to evacuate. Their plan is to move all residents to a shelter in San Marcos. When that is full they will take people to Tierra Blanca and then on to Jiquilisco. Civil Protection has set up a command post in Ciudad Romero where they are coordinating evacuation and relief efforts. According to our field staff, many government and international agencies are present, including the police, military, Red Cross, Comandos de Salvamento, the mayor’s office, and many, many others. The good news is that they are coordinating better than in past emergencies.

I'm worried about our friend Armando, a hard-working and ambitious farmer, whose farm lies in the area affected by these floods. I pray these floods will spare his house and family, his orchard and chickens and pigs. It's hard to be leaving for the United States tomorrow morning, before I can find out much about what's happened.

Here in Suchitoto, it's seemed like constant rain, but it's nothing in comparison - we had a little under three inches fall between October 11th and 12th. Still, all my friends have leaking roofs and sagging walls. In El Salvador, and in Central America, the people are so very vulnerable to disasters, and the disasters - storms, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions - happen all too often. If you'd like to help people caught in Tropical Depression 12 E, the Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services are excellent places to send a donation.

photo from La Prensa Grafica

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