INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
In recent years, the Guatemalan countryside has been hard hit by the natural storms. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch saw many rural families lose their lives, what little belongings they had, the crops that sustained their families, and put many in extreme poverty.
While we were still recovering from the damages of Hurricane Mitch, in 2005 tropical storm Stan hit, leaving hundreds dead, entire communities disappeared, infrastructure destroyed, thousands of campesinos’ crops lost, and what little social services that existed destroyed. Then in November last year, Hurricane IDA, while not causing much damage to infrastructure destroyed many crops just before harvest.
Now, as a preview of what this winter has in store for us, we have been surprised by the tropical storm “Agatha”, which has made bare the reality in which the Guatemalan countryside survives, as it is here where the majority of destruction has occurred, precisely where the majority of the indigenous-peasant population lives in poverty and extreme poverty (Sololá, Quiché, Chimaltenango, Sacatepéquez, Suchitepéquez, Izabal, amongst others).
Nevertheless, the authorities do not appear to be interested in enacting policies and laws that would eradicate this vulnerability and guarantee real rural development.
DESCRIPTION OF AGATHA’S IMPACTS
This tropical storm touched down in Guatemala on Friday during the middle of the night, with intense rains that intensified until 4:00pm on Saturday, leaving in its wake human and material losses throughout the entire country, with particular impact in the departments of Chimaltenango, Sololá and Suchitepéquez.
The aftermath we are experiencing is indescribable. Several communities have been left completely incommunicado and isolated. We’ve heard cries of desperation from people begging to
be rescued from avalanches and overflowing rivers – small streams which in few hours were converted into an avalanche of mud and rock, measuring approximately 6 meters in diameter, which swept away forests, leaving a desert-like swath approximately 1 kilometre wide. It has irreparably damaged housing, drinking water systems, ripped out hydro poles, ruined water treatment tanks, and destroyed community latrines and their septic tanks, which puts us at risk of contracting gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses. On top of this, we have also lost large areas of crops and stretches of highways.
In recent years, the Campesino Committee of the Highlands has worked on risk management, thanks to which communities were able to respond immediately to the instructions of the CCDA team, which has meant that despite levels of destruction that exceed those of Tropical Storm Stan, loss of human life is much less.
GENERAL QUANTIFIED ASSESSMENT OF DAMAGES AT THE CURRENT TIME
According to the National Commission for the Reduction of Disasters (CONRED), the quantifiable damages caused by Agatha are as follows:
- 128,149 people suffering/affected
- 42,286 people affected
- 124,835 people evacuated
- 64,383 people in shelters
- 152 people dead
- 100 people disappeared
- 87 people wounded
- 5,872 houses at risk
- 21,927 houses damaged
 Report as of 8:15am, June 1 2010.
Given that the majority of those affected live in the above-mentioned departments in which the CCDA carries out its work, and as a preventative measure, we have begun the following actions:
- Creating 10 shelters in the following communities:
4 in the community of Quixayá, San Lucas Tolimán.
1 in the municipal capital of San Lucas Tolimán, Sololá.
1 temporary shelter in Colonia Pampojilá, Lucas Tolimán, Sololá.
1 in Agua Escondida in the municipality of San Antonio Palopó
1 in the municipal capital of Patulul, based out of the neighbourhood El Triunfo.
1 in the village Patzún, Chimaltenango.
1 shelter in the village San Jorge, departmental capital of Sololá.
- Assisting a total of approximately 4500 people, including children, youth, men and women, and the elderly.
- Created 3 search and rescue teams to find and recuperate belongings.
- Created 2 food and nutrition teams to support food preparation in each of the shelters.
- Medical assistance, both first aid and psychological counselling.
- Created 3 teams to organize the transfer and return of refugees to their communities.
In order to be able to continue with our efforts, the CCDA is asking for support to enable us to provide the following:
a) Basic relief materials for the displaced:
- (Air) mattresses
- Disposable diapers
- Cooking utensils
- Tents and tarping
- Potable water (national level)
b) Human resources:
- General volunteers
- Four wheel drive vehicles
- All terrain vehicles
- Galvanized PVC pipes to reinstall drinking water systems.
- Work tools for clean up crews (pickaxes, shovels, drills, sledgehammer, or tractor/excavator).
- Industrial stoves
- Rescue equipment (lanterns, rain jackets, helmets, boots, rope and cord, harnesses, amongst others)
- Basic equipment for building latrines in the shelters.
- Rotoplast for transporting and storing water.
- Equipment for radio communications with a transmitting range of at least 20 miles.
- Hydropneumatic water pumps
Sololá, June 1, 2010.
Campesino Committee of the Highlands CCDA