Belize + 5 more

Severe flooding in Central America: Red Cross brings vital assistance to affected families

Marie-Françoise Borel

Torrential rains carried by a series of depressions and storms have left a wake of devastation in Central America over the last three weeks. Countries most affected by flooding and landslides include Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua where tens of thousands of people have sought refuge in shelters.

At least 30 people have died in the region, according to the Dartmouth Flood Observatory and Red Cross statistics, and damage to homes, infrastructure, crops and livestock is heavy. With some 130,000 people displaced by the floods and mudslides in Honduras alone, the government has declared a state of emergency and the Red Cross has mobilized all its teams.

The national Red Cross Societies, working closely with the authorities, have deployed hundreds of volunteers and staff to distribute emergency assistance, including food, blankets, clothes, hygiene articles and kitchen utensils to thousands of affected families. In addition, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has released 270,000 Swiss francs (US$245,000 / €173,000) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund and sent several disaster management delegates from its Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU), based in Panama, to bring immediate support to their relief operations.

The funds will be used to initially provide emergency food and hygiene articles for 1,500 families (1,000 in Honduras and 500 in Nicaragua).

Needs of the affected people at the heart of the response

"The Federation is also preparing an emergency appeal to ensure that people affected by the floods receive vital assistance which will tide them over the coming weeks, until they can return home," notes J.P. Taschereau, Federation Disaster Management Coordinator in Panama. "Red Cross volunteers and staff are carrying out assessments in the most affected areas and the results will be crucial to the plan of action we will carry out. The appeal should be launched in the coming days," he adds.

In Honduras alone, at least 25,000 families have been affected and 8,000 people are housed in emergency shelters. In Costa Rica, rivers have burst their banks and landslides are blocking roads, affecting 77,000 people. These rains are the worst in 40 years in the country, and nearly 2,000 people have found refuge in temporary shelters.

In Nicaragua, more than 8,000 people have been affected and 22 emergency shelters have been opened for flood victims. In El Salvador, there is growing concern about the high risk of additional landslides and overflowing rivers because the soil is saturated. Families affected by the flooding are being housed in emergency shelters.

In Guatemala, some 600 affected families have found refuge in 40 shelters. Initial reports from the authorities say more than 3,000 people have been affected by the torrential rains in the country.

Of particular concern is the fact that weather forecasts are calling for more heavy rain over the next week.