Central America: Floods DREF operation No. MDR43004

CHF 271,000 (USD 247,715 or EUR 172,611) has been allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the National Societies of Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua in delivering immediate assistance to 1,500 families. Unearmarked funds to repay DREF are encouraged.

Summary: Tropical depression number sixteen, located inland over Central America, brought with it heavy rains from northern Costa Rica to south-eastern Mexico. The system affected the countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala with heavy rain which led to major flooding. This DREF operation focuses on providing the National Societies with the means to jump start their initial assessment and emergency relief activities, mobilize regional support and draft a plan of action for recovery activities.

The situation

Tropical depression number 16 slowly crossed over Central America causing torrential rain. In Honduras, the Permanent Contingency Commission (COPECO) reports that 25,000 families have been affected and 4,000 people are housed in emergency shelters. COPECO declared a red alert in the departments of Choluteca, Valle, and Cortes. The northern departments of Atlantida and Yoro are in green alert while the departments of Copan, Choluteca, Valle, Ocotepeque, Lempira among others are in yellow alert. The southern municipality of San Lorenzo in the department of Valle in Honduras has been deeply affected. This community is located near the Pacific ocean and has a population of 122 families. Over the past few years reports have indicated the main river that crosses the community overflows and floods the entire town during the rainy season.

Several members of the Local Emergency Committee (Comite de Emergencia Local, CODEL) alerted that the Laure river had overflowed flooding approximately 60 houses. No casualties have been reported, but main crops including maize have been lost deaths of domestic animals have been reported. The main walls of six houses collapsed and many families lost all their home appliances.

There has been constant rainfall in Costa Rica for several weeks now, with precipitation levels reaching up to 2,100 mm, causing rivers to overflow, landslides and blocking roads. The country has not seen these levels of rain fall in more than 40 years. On 18 October, the Costa Rican government declared a state of emergency after state agencies reported many areas had been affected with heavy rain and floods. The provinces of Guanacaste in the northern Pacific and Puntarenas in the central Pacific are the most affected regions. Approximately 1,800 people are housed in 37 temporary shelters and latest reports indicate there are 77,000 people affected. There have been 287 destroyed houses. All main roads located in the northern and southern regions of the country are blocked due to landslides.

In Nicaragua, the government has declared yellow and red alerts in the Pacific, north and north Atlantic regions. On 18 October, preliminary reports indicated at least 8,053 people have been affected within eight departments (Chinandega, Madriz, Esteli, Leon, Managua, Granada, Rivas among others) and 22 emergency shelters have been opened. The members of the emergency center (SINAPRED) are coordinating all emergency activities in their region using all available resources, assisting in shelters and updating information.

In El Salvador, the National Territorial Study Service (SNET) confirmed the weather conditions will not improve. Due to soil saturation the possibility of additional landslides and overflowing rivers is high. Several creeks near the capital city of San Salvador have started to overflow causing floods in some communities. Landslides have taken place in many communities. Several hydroelectric dams report having high levels of water forcing them to release the water, which in turn has caused streets to flood in several communities. The civil protection evacuated nine families from several communities. To date, there are 19 families housed in different shelters in the country.

Map: Central America: Floods (as of 20 Oct 2008) - Situation Map