Panama: Floods DREF Operation Update No.2 MDRPA004

Situation Report
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Glide No. FL-2008-000158-PAN

The International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is a source of un-earmarked money created by the Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross and Red Crescent response to emergencies. The DREF is a vital part of the International Federation's disaster response system and increases the ability of national societies to respond to disasters.

Period covered by this update: 7 November to 26 November, 2008.

Summary: CHF 120,000 (USD 109,090 or EUR 74,303) was allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) on 13 September 2008 to support the Red Cross Society of Panama in delivering emergency assistance to some 2,500 beneficiaries (500 families). A DREF Bulletin update stating the progress on this operation was posted on 7 November 2008.

Since then, during the month of November the province of Chiriqui, Bocas del Toro and Colon were affected by further heavy rains caused by a low pressure system located east of the country. Weather forecasts say rainfall will continue for at least two more days in the entire country.

On 26 November 2008 a DREF extension for the amount of CHF 150,000 (USD 117,142 or EUR 97,056) was approved to deliver immediate assistance to an additional 2,500 beneficiaries (500 families) and to cover operational expenses made by the Red Cross Society of Panama (RCSP). A preliminary emergency appeal will be launched shortly, to seek international support in order to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected people and finance further activities as a more complete picture of the situation emerges. This operation has been extended to be implemented over five months and will therefore be completed by 12 February 2009; a Final Report will be made available three months after the end of the operation (by 12 May 2009).

The situation

On 22 November 2008, the provinces of Chiriqui, Bocas del Toro and Colon were declared in a state of emergency by the National government due to constant rain caused by a low pressure system stationed over the area. Costa Rica and Nicaragua are also being affected by this weather system with constant rain and flooding.

The most affected districts in Chiriqui are Bugaba, David and Boquete. Landslides, overflowed rivers and floods destroyed houses and communication and electricity towers are down. Main roads, warehouses and bridges also sustained damaged caused by the heavy floods. The Chiriqui Viejo River overflowed flooding several farms and forcing the evacuation of 36 families, including 39 children under the age of 10 and 79 adults. In the district of Boquete, the Caldera River has overflowed destroying a bridge and flooding many hotels.

Current reports indicate 573 people have been affected, 85 houses have been damaged and 15 houses have been destroyed in Chiriquí. The National Civil Protection System (Sistema Nacional de Proteccion Civil - SINAPROC) branches in David, Cerro Punta and Volcan deployed personnel to the district of Boquete to start preliminary damage and needs assessments. Boquete, Cerro Punta and Volcan are popular tourist attractions and Boquete is home of one of the best coffees in the world.

Reports indicate that a total of 255 people have lost their homes in Boquete. Currently, four temporary shelters are in place in the district of Bugaba, Boquete and Cerro Punta housing approximately 341 people. Five people were injured and four people died according to SINAPROC.

The Emergency Operations Centre (Centro de Operaciones de Emergencia - COE) informed that rains continue to affect the province of Bocas del Toro and the region of Ngöbe Bugle, an indigenous reservation which is hard to access. At least 411 houses and 2,289 people were affected in Bocas del Toro. 18 temporary shelters were opened housing approximately 5,064 people. Several rivers have overflowed, including the Changuinola, Teribe and Sixiaola rivers. In the region of Ngobe Bugle there are 395 houses affected. According to SINAPROC, over 3,000 people have been affected and more than 45 indigenous communities are surrounded by water and isolated.

In the province of Colon, reports indicate 40 people have been affected by the floods, nine houses have been damaged and one destroyed.

Rain continues to affect the entire country and forecasts indicate it will continue for two more days.

Coordination and partnerships

The Red Cross Society of Panama has been coordinating relief activities with the International Federation through its Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) and the Regional Representation Office for Central America and Mexico located in Panama. The RCSP has also been coordinating relief activities with the Civil Protection National System. The Risk Emergency Disaster Working Group for Latin America and the Caribbean (REDLAC) has been in close

The PRCS formed alliances with local NGOs present in the area. Several centres were opened by non-profit organizations to collect non-perishable food items as well as clothes and bottled water in the district of David.

The American Red Cross and other Partner National Societies (PNS) have demonstrated interest in providing assistance once all damage and need assessments are completed.