Situation Report Hurricane Pauline

from Church World Service
Published on 16 Oct 1997
34 Denominations & Communions Working Together to Meet Human Needs

OCT. 16, 1997

SITUATION: Thousands remain homeless from Hurricane Pauline, with disaster survivors complaining that government-run relief efforts have been inefficient and plagued by corruption.

The most serious charges center on complaints that army-run assistance facilities are not even handing out needed water and food to disaster survivors, said CWS Regional Representative Samuel Lobato, based in Mexico City. Among the other charges are that food and water are being hoarded by supporters of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Some 5,000 homes were destroyed and 25,000 homes were damaged in Acapulco
and its surrounding area, said Lobato, who has been conducting a needs assessment of the damage.

The death toll, meanwhile, continues to rise, with the Catholic Church in Acapulco saying as many as 500 may have been perished. Earlier the Red Cross in Mexico estimated that about 400 had been killed and that as many as 1,900 were missing. Health officials continue efforts to prevent outbreaks of deadly disease. At least four cases of cholera have been reported this week.

While international attention has focused on the damage in Acapulco, the most serious needs remain in the poor, rural regions of the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, two of Mexico's poorest regions in Mexico.

In Guerrero, for example, a number of extremely isolated regions with large indigenous communities, such as Costa Chica, have yet to receive any material aid, Lobato reports. Thousands of acres of crops have been destroyed and washed away; thousands of cattle have died; some communities remain surrounded by water; and floods and mudslides have isolated more than 45,000 in some areas.

In Oaxaca, meanwhile, whole communities were destroyed, with those most affected being the largely indigenous communities of Zapotecos, Chatino and Mixtecos. "The population is living without shelter and food," Lobato reports. "The greatest concern in this region is the lack of housing and the grave risk of health epidemics." In Oaxaca, there have been reports of at least 110 deaths, 150,000 residents and 1,278 communities affected, 500 communities destroyed, and 500 communities still isolated and without assistance.


Lobato has been in touch with several organizations attempting to make contact with indigenous communities in the region. These include:
The Guerrense Congress--500 Years of Indigenous Resistance, which is trying to reach the isolated communities in the Costa Chica and Montana regions of Guerrero to assess damage and needs.
The Forum of Civilian Organizations of Oaxaca (Foco), which is coordinating the distribution of material aid and is forming a plan for the reconstruction of communities. In Guerrero, a similar effort is expected through the Acapulco Civic Front, a human rights organization.

Based on initial reports, it is likely that CWS will issue an appeal and will concentrate efforts on assisting indigenous communities in Guerrero and Oaxaca.

Call the CWS HOTLINE for updates: (800) 456-1310.

For further information about disasters to which Church World Service is responding, contact CWS Emergency Response.

Telephone: (212) 870-3151


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