Central America Suffers Storms, Flooding and Landslides

October 20, 2011

Over the past week, two tropical depressions closed in Central America from the Pacific and western Caribbean. Heavy rains have caused devastating flooding and landslides, claiming more than 100 lives. In El Salvador, the hardest hit country, the Lempa and Grande rivers overflowed onto already-saturated ground. The severe flooding that resulted has killed more than 30 people and destroyed more than 18,000 homes. An estimated 65 people have also died in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica.

According to the Rt. Rev. Martin Barahona, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador, the current crisis surpasses the destruction of Hurricane Mitch and previous disasters. Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes and the National Assembly have declared a national state of emergency. The government and non-governmental organizations have responded quickly in evacuating and temporarily housing vulnerable communities, but food, water, and basic services are scarce in the shelters. In addition, mudslides have paralyzed transportation and cut communities off from essential supplies.

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting a coordinated response through the Diocese of El Salvador and Asociacion Mangle. The diocesan effort is a collaboration with Cristosal, a U.S.-based foundation, and Asociacion CREDHO, a Salvadoran agency. The diocese is also coordinating the ground response with the ACT (Action by Churches Together) Alliance. Ten communities in several states will be targeted with essential services such as food, water, temporary shelter, medication and transportation. A diocesan medical team will also begin responding when conditions permit. The program will directly support 2,025 people and indirectly benefit 4,050, including vulnerable populations such as orphans, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with HIV/AIDS.

According to Matt St. John, Program Officer at Episcopal Relief & Development, the entire region of Bajo Lempa, Usulutan state, is under water. Approximately 5,000 have been relocated to 28 temporary housing. Asociacion Mangle, a local organization, will respond with support to help transport communities to its shelter in Ciudad Romero and for monitoring communications there, along with providing food for those displaced. The effort will minister directly to 439 people and indirectly to more than 6,900.

“It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ situation in El Salvador, worse than Hurricane Mitch,” St. John said. “In addition to the loss of human life, thousands have lost their homes and livelihoods. Animals have drowned and crops are underground. Please pray for all those affected, and for our Church partners as they reach out to Salvadorans who will need to begin rebuilding their lives.”

To support the emergency response in El Salvador, visit our donation page and select the Central America Fund.