Update #9 on Hurricane Mitch
5 November 1998, 1200 hours local time
The Christian Commission for Development in Honduras once again
expresses its appreciation for the generous solidarity shown to our
sisters and brothers who today are suffering throughout Honduras and the
rest of Central America.
We want to report the following developments since we sent you Update
1. It is impossible to get accurate numbers of victims, given problems
of communicating with isolated areas and the general confusion that has
plagued an overwhelmed government response to the emergency. After
widely varying figures were released by different government
spokespeople yesterday, President Carlos Flores ordered data figures to
be released by just one office. As of last night, that office reported
6,420 dead, 5,807 disappeared, 10,114 injured, and 1,411,462 homeless.
The government said 812,000 people were still living in emergency
shelters. As we stated yesterday, accurate numbers regarding victims
will never be known.
2. Rescue operations continue around the country. Those being rescued
from hilltops and isolated communities are suffering from hunger,
dehydration, and a variety of illnesses, including fungal skin
infections caused by constant exposure to water. President Flores
yesterday declared that Honduras was in a "race against time" to get
assistance to people who have yet to receive food or medicines in
isolated areas. Mark Schneider, an official with the U.S. Agency for
International Development, said Mitch "was the most destructive natural
disaster to hit the region in 50 years."
3. Significant aid arrived yesterday from the government of Mexico,
which sent 700 tons of food, 11 tons of medicine, 16 helicopters, four
rescue planes, 445 rescue personnel, and a variety of tractors and other
heavy construction equipment. The Cuban government sent a contigent of
physicians who were dispatched to the Mosquitia. The U.S. announced it
was evacuating more than 200 Peace Corps volunteers from Honduras, and
several families of U.S. embassy personnel were reported leaving.
4. Flores chastised the Clinton administration yesterday for failing
respond quickly. He termed U.S. assistance to date "moderate." Flores
designated his wife, U.S. citizen Mary Flakes, as a liaison to the U.S.
in an effort to obtain more assistance. The president also suggested
that the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service should cease
deportation of Hondurans during the crisis. After several Hondurans were
sent home earlier this week, a member of the U.S. House of
Representatives from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, called the
deportations an "inhuman action."
5. As food, gasoline, and water became even more scarce in the capital
and other cities, the government announced a 10 day price freeze, yet
complaints abounded of hoarding and price gouging. Government officials
promised they would arrest and prosecute speculators. In a speech
broadcast last evening, Flores called on Hondurans living in shelters to
avoid falling into dependency on providers of emergency assistance.
"Affected people need to understand that their condition of homelessness
doesn't make them incapable of working, nor take away their ability to
help others nor themselves," Flores stated.
6. Only one helicopter flight took emergency food to an isolated
community south of the capital yesterday. That flight carried
CCD-provided food to Curanen. CCD staff are standing by at the airport
should space become available on flights today. Another army helicopter
crashed yesterday, although those aboard, including several
international journalists, were uninjured.
7. CCD staff in Tegucigalpa met together this morning to design an
emergency organizational structure, given that all CCD's work in the
immediate future will involve responding to this emergency. Because
almost all the communities where CCD works have been affected by the
hurricane, one senior staff member, Daniel Medina, has been assigned the
task of redesigning CCD's work for the next several years.
8. Gabriela Núñez, the government minister of finances,
has assured CCD
that our staff will be exempt from curfew regulations and that CCD
vehicles will be assured gasoline. Yet two CCD staff were arrested last
night in San Marcos and held in jail overnight for violating the 9 pm
curfew. The two were transporting emergency food supplies collected in
rural communities for victims in the Santa Barbara area.
9. The director of CCD's Santa Barbara office, Rut Menjibar, finally
made it back to Quimistan yesterday. She had been trapped in San Pedro
Sula. Staff there have begun helping people in several communities
rebuild damaged potable water systems. And leaders in affected
communities where CCD works have all formed Municipal Emergency
10. A construction company in the capital today sent a bulldozer to
CCD's Monte Carmelo retreat center to open an access road to the
center's recently constructed chapel. The chapel is being converted into
an emergency warehouse for the storage and packing of food supplies for
affected communities. CCD has to supply approximately 200 gallons of
Diesel fuel for the machine, the purchase of which was authorized
yesterday by the government. The road work is expected to take two or
11. Christian Aid in Great Britain announced it is sending a ship filled
with food, medicine, and powdered milk to Puerto Cortes for distribution
by CCD in the north. Chiquita Brands International is providing the sea
transportation free of charge. The road from Puerto Cortes is now opened
to San Pedro Sula and access to the Santa Barbara area is expected
within a few days. Supplies may be shipped now to CCD via Puerto Cortes.
12. Church World Service in the U.S. announced it is sending two
airplanes in coming days with emergency food and medicines. CCD
Executive President Noemi Espinoza again appeals to supporters to make
available airplanes or funds to pay for flights to bring in emergency
food and medicine to Tegucigalpa, from where it can be distributed to
communities in the south and center of the country. CCD has food
available in Miami, but doesn't have the funds available to bring in the
supplies by air. There is also a dramatic need for a helicopter; please
contact us immediately if you can help provide one.
13. Emergency brigades to provide medical care and reconstruction
assistance are encouraged to come to Honduras. These brigades, or
individual experts, should be self-sufficient and bilingual, and should
bring their own supplies and food. We will coordinate your work on this
end. Please contact us if you're interested.
14. CCD has a list of medicines we need. Let us know if you want to
receive a copy via fax or email.
15. A conference on debt in the Third World, scheduled for next week
Tegucigalpa, has been postponed. CCD was a cosponsor of the event.
16. CCD's Tegucigalpa office is without electricity at times. If you
trying to fax us and the number doesn't answer, please note this
alternative fax number: +504-232-8158. This is the home number of Noemi
Espinoza. All email should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.