El Salvador

Report from the Center for International Solidarity in El Salvador Update 19 Jan 2001

Situation Report
Originally published
Friday, January 19, 2001 - Updated Departmental Report - Earthquake of 2001
The following is a summary of known deaths and damages of the 2001 earthquake as of 8:00 a.m. on Friday, Jan 19. Although this data is much more consolidated, most rural communities still haven't been visited. Entire towns have been destroyed. The number of homeless in Usulután alone is said to be over 200,000 (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01).

Many people buried in the landslides remain unaccounted for and may never be found. Such is the case of "Las Colinas", a neighborhood in Santa Tecla which suffered the biggest landslide of the earthquake. The landslide was the product of the greed and ambition of construction companies and government functionaries whom continued to deforest and develop housing projects on the slope even though ecological organizations warned them of the danger. The mayor of Santa Tecla, as well as the community, tried to put a stop to the construction and deforestation but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the construction companies. The community, the city hall and ecological organizations are placing a law suit against the company and the government, for having authorized the construction.

The government has distributed very little aid. The Committee for National Solidarity, named by the government, has been badly criticized. Although one can hear about all the aid coming into the country through this Committee, it's not getting to the communities. According to a coordinator of this Committee, this organism is only in charge of channeling the aid to the government (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). Therefore, it's one more burocratic step in distributing the aid received, as well as being a source of corruption. There have been numerous denouncements that the material aid is being sold at various markets (Channel 12, Thursday, January 18.01.01). In an interview with the director of COEN, the governmental Committee of National Emergency, which has also been the object of harsh criticisms due to it's disorganization, inefficiency, politization, and burocracy, Ferrer said that the reason that the Committee is being criticized is because the people are taking "advantage" and calling themselves "victims" (La Prensa Gráfica, Friday, January 19.01.01). Also, when he was asked what COEN would do with the 17.4 million colones which they've been allocated from the national budget to attend to the national emergency, he said that he wasn't the person indicated to even have that kind of knowledge, because it's not his job.

The official government figures have been kept as low as possible. They're using the demagogic "the worst is over" speech, urging people to get on with their lives, minimizing the impact. As of the morning of Thursday, January 18, 2001, the "official figures" were 681 dead, 3,340 injured, and 54,107 evacuated. These numbers appear to be low, considering that the number of homeless is over 372,222 (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01). Also, the number of dead according to the municipalities is 702 --22 more than the "official figures". The COEN is refusing to put out the number of disappeared, because the number of disappeared is logically added on to the number of dead.

The risk of epidemics is high. The homeless are being concentrated in areas completely overcrowded. Due to the fact that they have to sleep outside at night, children are presenting serious respiratory problems, and precarious hygienic conditions could contribute to the appearance of epidemics.

The departmental summaries continue to contain information from various sources of differing reliability.

1. San Vicente

For an example of the difference between the numbers given by COEN and data gathered by a newspaper, COEN has reported that in this department there was only one death and 53 wounded, but the newspaper reported 50 dead and 500 wounded. This trend is consistent with all the departments. There were structural damages in 80% of the department, and 14,057 houses destroyed (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). Tecoluca, San Vicente, Verapáz y Guadalupe have been the most affected municipalities. A landslide on kilometer 53 of the Pan-American Highway killed at least ten members of a single family, it is suspected that there are still other vehicles trapped. Over 50 dead have been reported. In Tecoluca (San Carlos Lempa), 60% of the houses were lost (FMLN, 14/1). There are 13,000 people without homes (FMLN preliminary database).

2. La Libertad

This has been one of the hardest hit departments. According to the "official figures", the homeless are more than 50,000 (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01). There are reportedly 507 people "officially dead". Twelve thousand five hundred people have been evacuated (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). Las Colinas, where the largest amount of people died, has become a big cemetery. Between 300 and 1,000 people were killed. As we stated before, several employees and friends of the CIS went by the disaster in Las Colinas and reported that there was no government direction of the rescue efforts. Heavy equipment has moved in and is removing dirt, rubble, and body parts. Most of the bodies have been immediately buried in common graves because they were not identifiable. Two hundred and eighty five people remain disappeared.

The municipalities of the Cordillera del Bálsamo, which has suffered from massive deforestation, have suffered most. Comasagua, Talnique, Sacacoyo, Tepecoyo, and Jayaque have been completely leveled. In Comasagua, half of the hill fell on top of the town. There have been rumors that there are hundreds of people in Comasagua still buried beneath landslides. The town continues to be incommunicado because of the highway. In Ciudad Arce there are nine people dead. This city also has people buried by landslides (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). In San Juan Opico there are twelve people dead; 32 in Lourdes; 3 in Quetzaltepeque, 10 in La Libertad, 6 in Zapotitán, 1 in Joya de Cerén, 1 in Tamanique and 1 in Jayaque. In Jayaque, a city with 14,600 habitants, 12,000 of these lost their homes (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01).

The homeless from Las Colinas and other neighborhoods, evacuated from mostly around the urban area, are staying in the open at the Santa Tecla sports field of El Cafetalón. There are more than 10,770 people now at El Cafetalón (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). The over crowdedness, lack of water, and lack of bathrooms are alerting of a possible epidemic. According to the mayor of Santa Tecla, El Cafetalón hasn't received any sort of aid from the COEN (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). In fact, rather than responding to people, COEN is sending people from other municipalities to El Cafetalón to get aid.

The Pan-American Highway at Los Chorros was completely buried by mud because several water tanks burst during the landslide. An unknown number of vehicles were buried, and an unknown number of houses swept away. It still has not been habilitated. Currently, the government is using dynamite to remove the tons of rocks and dirt. Only 30% of the debris has been removed (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01).

In Zaragoza, Mayor Isidro Rodriguez has reported that there are 1,395 families living on the street. Ninety percent of the municipality has been damaged, according the FMLN database for Zaragoza.

In the port of La Libertad there are 5,000 homeless and 54 people wounded. The population of this coastal city, have been forced to suspend their only income-producing activity; fishing.

3. San Salvador

There are 22 dead (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01). The most affected have been the marginal communities, some of which were formed as a result of the 1965 and 1986 earthquakes. Other which were formed as a result of people fleeing the countryside during the war, and all of them are products of the structural poverty. There are 25,000 people affected (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01) from these communities. Houses collapsed in the barrios of Colonia Flor Blanca, Barrio Candelaria, Comunidad Cecilio del Valle. There are structural damages in the Metropolitan Cathedral. The Barrio San Jacinto seems to have been the most affected (El Diario de Hoy, 14/1). Many people were left homeless in the parishes of Mejicanos and San Ramón. Houses collapsed in the barrios of Colonia Flor Blanca, Barrio Candelaria, Comunidad Cecilio del Valle. There are structural damages in the Metropolitan Cathedral. The Barrio San Jacinto seems to have been the most affected (El Diario de Hoy, 14/1).

The COEN continues with its headquarters in the fairgrounds, where supposedly reception, classification and distribution of aid is being carried out. There have been complaints of excessive slowness in the distribution due to the burocratic process, which forces people to fill out forms, obtain authorization from one place to another, where they have to have their petition sealed, stamped, and signed. People don't have the time or resources to come in from all over the countryside and wait for hours. The people working in this institution have completely lost themselves in the process, not caring anymore about the end result.

Soyapango, the largest city in San Salvador, has 4,000 people that have been affected by the earthquake. Apopa has 800, San Marcos 50, Santo Tomás 2000, and Tonacatepeque has1500 (FMLN database)

4. Usulután

One of the two hardest hit departments, the population still has no water, except for two municipalities, Concepción Batres and San Agustín. There are 27 people dead (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01), and 252,392 people affected. Twelve people have been reported missing. Twenty six thousand and fifty eight houses have been damaged, and an additional 12,132 are completely destroyed. Estimated 90% destruction at the departmental level. According to the FMLN database, Mercedes Umaña has 4600 affected, Jiquilisco 6000, Estanzuelas 1913, San Buena Ventura 85, Tecapán 9000, Santa Elena 20,000, and Santiago de María 20,000. The most affected municipalities are San Agustín, Santiago de María, Berlín, California, San Francisco Javier, Mercedes Umaña, Alegría, Santa Elena, and Estanzuelas.

5. La Paz

Fifty percent of the municipalities have been affected. The main hospital, in Zacatecoluca, is uninhabitable. There are 32 dead, and the affected are more than 20,000 (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01). Certain municipalities, such as Paraíso de Osorio and San Pedro Nonualco, were completely leveled.

There are 20,319 houses damaged and 12, 168 destroyed (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). Paraíso de Osorio; 1 dead, San Juan Talpa; 1400 destroyed, Rosario La Paz; 1 dead and 7 wounded, San Pedro Masahuat; 3 dead and 4000 houses destroyed, San Antonio Masahuat; 1500 houses affected, San Luis Talpa; 1 dead, 6 wounded, 3002 housed destroyed, San Pedro Nonualco; 3 dead and 9 wounded, Santiago Nonualco; 12 wounded, Olocuilta; 26 wounded, Paraíso de Osorio; 1 dead and 8 wounded, Cuyultitán; 4 wounded, and Jerusalén; 1 dead. Approximately 60 houses were destroyed or seriouslydamaged in San Francisco Chinameca. In La Puntilla, wells have been damaged and contaminated. In the island La Colorada, all the houses have been damaged or destroyed and they have no water or food (Radio Poderosa, 14/1). In the small community of La Zarcera in San Luis La Herradura, 20 houses were destroyed, and many more damaged. They fear that their wells, which are their only sources of drinking water, are contaminated. (CIS, 14/1) Also in La Herradura, houses collapsed in La Arenera, El Palmo, La Borda, and El Chingo. Collapsed houses have also been reported in the communities of El Porvenir, San Marco Jiboa, Las Hojas, El Achotal, Astoria and Las Isletas in the municipality of San Pedro Masahuat, and also in the town center of San Pedro Masahuat. Representatives from these preceding communities have all been participating in the CIS Social Organizing Project and the information comes directly >from them.

6. Sonsonate

Armenia, Juayúa, San Julián, Salcoatitán and other municipalities on the Cordillera del Bálsamo have been the most damaged (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). The affected are more than 25,000.

Sonsonate has the largest number of wounded: 1276 (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01). There are 44 people dead. There are approximately 11,000 houses destroyed. There were landslides on the highway that connects the city to San Salvador, but they were removed in 24 hours.

Armenia has been badly hit - 100% of the homes are destroyed (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). There are 23 dead, and 8,000 people affected (FMLN preliminary database). Izalco has 4 people dead. Juayua, a turistic town, has 10 people dead, 12 buried under landslides, and 400 families have been evacuated. In Nahuizalco there is 1 person dead, and 45 houses destroyed. San Julián reported 2 dead and 15 wounded. There is a 60% of destruction in the town. In Salcoatitán there is 1 dead, 1 disappeared, 4 wounded, and 130 houses have been destroyed.

7. San Miguel

The city of San Miguel and the southern area of the department were the most damaged (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). The municipalities of Chinameca, El Tránsito, Chirilagua, Nueva Guadalupe and San Jorge were the worst hit. Chinameca itself has 15,000 homeless (FMLN preliminary database). The main hospital, San Juan de Dios, in the city is uninhabitable. Patients have been moved to the Social Security hospital and the military hospital. The houses destroyed are more than 20,000 and the homeless are more than 33,900 (COEN). There are 16 people dead, and 35 wounded.

8. La Union

In La Unión there is one person reported dead (COEN) and a hundred wounded (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). There is no official number of people affected, but the coastal zone was most damaged. El Tamarindo y Conchagua are the worst hit municipalities (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01). Seventy percent of the houses in the city of La Union were destroyed or seriously damaged.

9. Santa Ana

COEN has reported 20 dead and 295 wounded. The most affected municipalities were El Congo, Santa Ana, and Coatepeque. There are 1300 homeless in Coatepeque (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01). Five thousand houses were destroyed (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). The volcanic activity keeps the population alert. The sixteen habilitated shelters in the city have denounced that no aid has been received. The refugees from Coatepeque are lacking water, food, and medicines.

10. Cuscatlán

San Ramón, Santa Cruz Analquito, Cojutepeque, Candelaria, and San Rafael Cedros were the worst affected municipalities. The number of mortal victims surpasses 20, the number of damaged is approximately 3,000, and 200 people are wounded. There are still towns that are incommunicado. In Cojutepeque there were 226 houses destroyed (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01). Seven people were buried in Las Palmas. One person died in San José Guayabal, five in Santa Cruz Michapa, and three in Candelaria.

11. Cabañas

Damage was very minimal in the department. People have organized in committees to help the homeless. No victims have been reported. The Dam 5 de Noviembre reported some damage in its walls but is functioning normally (El Diario de Hoy, 19.01.01).

12. Ahuachapán

There are 3,000 houses damaged and 6,500 people affected (La Prensa Gráfica, 19.01.01). There were no mortal victims. In Cara Sucia, 20% of the houses were reported destroyed. However, the municipality of Tacuba is the most damaged. According to the FMLN preliminary database, Tacuba has 4,000 people affected.

13. Chalatenango

There have been very minimal damages. Less than one hundred houses damaged, and 4 people are wounded. The 16 municipalities that have FMLN governments have mobilized their resources and citizens to help municipalities in other departments (FMLN, 15/1).

14. Morazán

No major destruction, in Jocoro and Perquín were there was minor damage. The emergency committee of the department has dedicated itself to help the affected in the eastern part of the country.

Prepared by CISPES, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador