Mexican subsistence farmers worst hit by hurricane Kenna

by Fernando Nuño in Guatemala City.
"First, Isidore hit from the east, now Kenna has struck from the west", says Francisco Navas, surveying what was a banana crop a week ago, but is now a field of flattened palms.

Like Hurricane Isidore in the Yucatan Peninsula a month ago, Hurricane Kenna has battered the hopes and livelihoods of many subsistence farmers and their families along Mexico's central Pacific coast.

"In many cases, roofs were ripped from the houses and rainfall flooded homes," said Isaac Oxenhaut, disaster response director of the Mexican Red Cross. "But, for the vulnerable people living off the land, the loss of crops means an uncertain few months ahead."

Kenna, initially a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, struck the coastal areas of the State of Nayarit as a category 3 hurricane on the afternoon of October 25. It rapidly weakened to a tropical depression as it moved towards the central mountain range.

"It will be hard for the lives of fishermen and farmers to return to normal," Oxenhaut explained.

A day before Kenna struck, the local authorities evacuated 15,000 people to safe temporary shelters.

When the hurricane hit, one woman died and 45 people were injured by the falling rocks, trees, electricity posts and windows.

Nelson Castaño, head of the International Federation's Pan American Disaster Response Unit, visited affected areas of the port city of San Blas. "The first impression as I arrived in San Blas and Santiago Ixcuintla is that hundreds of houses are now without roofs. Both areas have been severely affected," said Castaño, who took part in the evaluation of damage and needs assessment exercise with the Mexican Red Cross.

Immediately after the disaster, the Mexican Red Cross mobilized 180 technical staff and volunteers from seven state branches to distribute 125 MT of food, clothes and medicines to most vulnerable population affected. It was the first aid to arrive on the scene.