Honduras and Central America: Floods OCHA Situation Report No. 1

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 22 Oct 2008
This situation report is based on information received from, the UN Emergency Technical Team (UNETT) in the affected countries, the Regional Office in Panama and the National Hurricane Centre.

HIGHLIGHTS

- Tropical Depression 16 made landfall in northern Honduras on 16 October and has been slowly crossing over Central America, causing heavy rains from Northern Costa Rica to South-Eastern Mexico.

- Honduras, Costa Rica, Belize, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala have been affected.

- A United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Team is being deployed to Honduras where some 130,000 persons were affected and 13 deaths were reported.

SITUATION

1. Tropical Depression No. 16 made landfall in northern Honduras on 16 October and has been slowly crossing over Central America causing heavy rains from northern Costa Rica to south-eastern Mexico. The system affected the countries of Costa Rica, Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala with heavy rains which led to flooding and mudslides. Locally heavy rains continue over portions of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula over the next two days.

HONDURAS

2. Due to a series of meteorological events in the past days (Tropical Depression 16, low depression and swell), the Government of Honduras declared a state of emergency on 19 October. These events caused rains of diverse intensity in the whole country but mainly in the central and western area. The rains led to the overflow of the Tocoa River in the department of Colon and to floods in agricultural-farm areas of the department of Atlántida (municipalities of Arizona, Esparta and La Masica). The department of Valle was affected by the rise in the Choluteca River. Moreover, the Ulua River overflowed and flooded the municipalities of Pimienta, Potrerillos and Progreso in Yoro. The rise of the rivers led to the evacuation of the most vulnerable communities. A great number of landslides were registered in the western and central part of the country. The Government has formally requested humanitarian assistance from the UN System. An UNDAC team is being deployed and will be in country on 23 October.

3. The Permanent Commission for Contingencies (COPECO) maintains a Red Alert for the municipalities of Corquin and Cucuyagua in the Department of Copan, Cortes, Choluteca and Valle; the Yellow Alert in the Departments of Atlántida, Yoro, Olancho, Francisco Morazán and El Paraíso; and the Green Alert in the rest of the country except for the Departments of Gracias a Dios and the Bay Islands. According to the COPECO, on 21 October, 13 deaths were reported and 129,666 persons were affected; some 9,000 people are in shelters. More than 155 houses were destroyed and 3, 300 were damaged. Some 15,000 hectares of crops have been lost in particular in the departments of Comayagua (12,279 hectares), Copán (155 hectares) and Ocotepeque (61,53 hectares). The losses in the most affected departments are expected to increase considerably. Epidemiological reports are being prepared. Some 14 potable water systems have been damaged.

4. COPECO has been coordinating relief activities with the Honduran Red Cross, who identified as a priority the distribution of food and non food items including kitchen kits and hygiene kits. The UNETE has been monitoring the situation since October the 13th and was activated on 18 October. On 19 October, thematic groups (or clusters) have been activated. Assessments are on-going.

5. On 20 October, a meeting took place in the UN House to present the National Emergency Order to bilateral donors and NGOs, as well as to analyze the possible immediate required assistance.

Needs

6. Requirements, as identified by COPECO, include:

- Portable latrines;

- Ambulances and 4X4 vehicles for the regions (these can be loaned);

- Potable Water plants;

- Massive medical attention in gastrointestinal diseases, IRAs;

- Specialists in dermatology;

- Energy plants;

- Geophysicists for slides evaluation;

- Communication node for cellular phones in bordering communities with El Salvador;

- Kerosene Stoves;

- Aerial recognition flights;

- And Food and hygiene kits, blankets and mattresses.

7. The international community has offered assistance to Honduras. WHO is reprogramming regular funds in order to mobilize medical teams and to purchase emergency and general medicines. PAHO/WHO has also mobilized regional experts in water and sanitation, disaster management and the SUMA deployment. Three teams have been sent to the field to carry out an inter-agency assessment in the most affected areas in the North, West and South parts of the country. Spain, through PAHO, has released USD 30,000 for immediate disaster relief. WFP has distributed 57 MT of food in the rural communities of Jutiapa, Corquín, Belén Gualcho and the Departments of Cortés, Yoro, Choluteca and Valle. WFP, in coordination with COPECO, CODEM (Municipality Emergency Committee) and other partners, continues to monitor the situation and carry out assessments to provide assistance to the affected population. WFP has organized missions to the affected areas and needs an additional 2,500 MT of food through the regional PRRO. UNICEF distributed pre-positioned supplies through COPECO and is planning the rehabilitation of the affected water systems and school infrastructure. UNICEF also plans to preposition family hygiene kits, emergency health, education, and cooking kits, as well as blankets. The UNDAC team being deployed by OCHA will focus on information management with the support of RedHum in ROLAC, and on needs assessments. Emergency cash grants are being considered, in addition to other support if need be.

COSTA RICA

8. Since 13 October, precipitation levels were the highest in 40 years and reached up to 2,100 mm, causing rivers to overflow and landslides. On 18 October, the Government declared a state of emergency after state agencies reported many areas had been affected by heavy rain and floods. The provinces of Guanacaste in the northern Pacific and Puntarenas in the central Pacific are the most affected. According to the latest information, 6 deaths were reported; some 470 communities were affected; 92,000 people are affected and 65 shelters were opened. Some 1,400 houses and 171 roads were flooded or covered by mudslides. All main roads located in the northern and southern regions of the country are blocked due to landslides. Some 89 communities are experiencing electricity cuts. OCHA allocated an emergency cash grant of USD 30,000 to respond to the most immediate needs of the affected population, while PAHO is distributing emergency health kits. The Costa Rican Red Cross (CRC) is updating the information obtained from the affected regions while some communities remain isolated. The CRC volunteers are conducting damage and needs assessments in the communities and are distributing relief items to the emergency shelters and to families that have not left their homes. Coordination meetings have been held among regional supervisors to define all relief actions.

NICARAGUA

9. The Government has declared yellow and red alerts in the Pacific, north and north Atlantic regions. Four deaths have been reported so far. On 18 October, preliminary reports indicated that at least 10,633 people have been affected in 8 departments (Chinandega, Madriz, Esteli, Leon, Managua, Granada, Rivas among others); more than 22 emergency shelters were opened, housing around 1,500 people while the rest are staying with family and friends. Some 16 houses were totally destroyed and 1,331 are damaged. The emergency centre (SINAPRED) is coordinating all emergency activities in their region using all available resources, assisting in shelters and updating information. The Government has not requested additional resources from the UN to respond to the emergency. Some NGOs are visiting the shelters to evaluate the facilities and living conditions. The Nicaraguan Red Cross (NRC) is participating in coordination meetings. The NRC has also deployed staff to the affected areas to provide support and start assessment activities. An initial Plan and Action drafted by the NRC includes provisions of food and non food items.

EL SALVADOR

10. Since 16 October, El Salvador is under Yellow Alert due to a risk of flooding and landslide caused by persistent heavy rains as a consequence of the remnants of Tropical Depression 16. The coastal areas in the departments of Usulutan and San Miguel have been the hardest hit by flooding, where nearly 600 affected families fled their homes. Significant maize and bean crop losses have been reported in low lying coastal regions. 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. Several hydroelectric dams report high levels forcing to release the water, which, in turn, has caused streets to flood in several communities. WFP was requested to provide food assistance to a total of 577 flood affected families in the municipalities of Puerto el Triunfo and San Dionisio, in the department of Usulutan, and in the municipality of Chirilagua in the department of San Miguel. WFP, in coordination with the Civil Protection and National Secretary of the Family (SNF), distributed a total of 8 MT of food to the affected families.

GUATEMALA

11. The Government declared a state of calamity in 20 municipalities in the provinces of Peten, Izabal, Alta Verapaz and Quiche, along rivers and lowlands of the country. The Yellow alert is maintained at the national level. The floods claimed the lives of 4 persons. The CONRED is also reporting that some 35,000 persons were affected, of which 8,700 were evacuated. Of these, some 3,325 are in shelters. Some communities have been isolated; around 4,000 houses and 82 roads were destroyed or damaged. The CONRED is mobilizing its immediate response teams in the various affected municipalities and is coordinating the response

BELIZE

12. The remnants of Tropical Depression 16 caused widespread rainfall across Belize resulting in floods in communities along the Mopan, Macal and Belize Rivers. All other river levels in the country have increased. Initial assessments indicate direct impacts on 18 communities. The communities within the Cayo district are the most severely impacted and include Bullet Tree Falls, Calla Creek, Santa Familia, and Branch Mouth, Spanish Lookout, and surrounds, Blackman Eddy and Roaring Creek. The Main Bridge to the Cayo district is flooded though still passable. In the Western district, the bridge over the Macal river is also flooded and only limited traffic is allowed. Some 269 persons have been evacuated from their homes and 85 are in shelters. Search and rescue operations were conducted in the affected areas. There were no related deaths and no immediate reports of illnesses; however there is a need to monitor and control vector and water borne related diseases.

13. The affected livelihoods are based largely on subsistence farming, trading, transportation, cottage industries and casual employment in the agriculture and tourism sectors. Significant losses were initially reported in the infrastructure, agriculture, petroleum and education sectors. Significant reductions in tourism revenues are expected. Significant economic losses from the agriculture and petroleum industries, coupled with unprecedented food insecurity concerns resulting from losses of subsistence agriculture and disruptions in livelihoods are also predicted. As of 20 October, the total direct losses have been estimated to Belizean dollars 19.1 Million (Infrastructure: $3.2 Million Dollars; Agriculture $7.2 Million Dollars and Petroleum $8.7 Million Dollars). UNICEF stands ready to assist should a request be made.

REGIONAL RESPONSE

14. Some 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. The Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) and the Regional Representation for Central America and Mexico are communicating with and providing support to the National Societies. An alert for a Regional Intervention Team (RIT) member has been issued for immediate deployment to the National Society in most need of support. Three PADRU disaster management delegates have been deployed to Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua to coordinate initial relief actions with the National Societies. The American Red Cross and international agencies including ECHO and OFDA have already made contact with the International Federation to offer their support to this emergency.

15. The OCHA Regional Office in Panama is closely monitoring the situation and is in close contact with the RCs and UNTTs of the affected countries in the region. More information can be found on Reliefweb at http://www.reliefweb.int and REDHUM at http://www.redhum.org. Humanitarian organizations and donors are encouraged to report all contributions (cash and in-kind) to OCHA's Financial Tracking Service at fts@reliefweb.int or through the on-line contribution form at http://www.reliefweb.int/fts, where a list of already made contributions is available.

MAP: Central America: Floods (as of 22 Oct 2008) - Situation Map

Contact Details

Desk Officer (New York)
Ms. Heidi Kuttab
Office Tel: +1 917 367-3365
Office Fax: +1 212 963-36 30
E-mail: kuttab@un.org

GCMS (Geneva)
Mr. Peter Neussl
Office Tel: +41 22 917 1511
E-mail: neussl@un.org

OCHA Regional Office for America and the Caribbean
Mr. Douglas Reimer
Regional Disaster Response Adviser
Office Tel. +507 317-1748
Office Fax +507 317-1744
Mobile: +507 6676-1689
E-mail: reimer@un.org

Press Contact:
(NY) Ms. Stephanie Bunker
Office Tel : + 1 917-367-5126
Office Fax: + 1 212-963-1312
Email: bunker@un.org

(GVA) Ms. Elizabeth Byrs
Office Tel + 41 22 917 26 53
Office Fax + 41 22 917 00 20
E-mail: byrs@un.org

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.