Thursday, February 11, 1999 Published at 02:03 GMT
Honduras fights back after Mitch
Hundreds of towns like Morolica were flattened
By Peter Morgan
Honduras captured headlines around the world late last year when Hurricane Mitch ripped across the small Central American country.
But the country is still in a state of profound shock, as I found when I visited the town of Morolica on the banks of the Rio Grande.
I passed the school with children playing amongst the waist high walls that were once their classrooms. Incredibly enough the school was used as a refuge when Hurricane Mitch struck and the river flooded over the defences which have protected Morolica for over 200 years.
The Lopez family are amongst the 8,000 still recorded as missing three months after Hurricane Mitch, alongside the 6,000 dead.
It is moving to visit the cardboard and canvas city where the townspeople now live. They could have dispersed to the cities, or to relatives elsewhere in Honduras, but they want to recreate their remote farming community.
The trouble is that there is no obvious means of turning that dream into reality. The Government of Honduras has not helped yet. And so great is the challenge of national reconstruction that tiny communities like Morolica can not expect help any time soon.
Where thousands of acres of seven foot hight banana plants should stand, there is now only a marshy wilderness. Bananas are a vital Honduras export, but 90% of the crop has been destroyed or badly damaged.
La Lima was once the commercial heart of Honduras - but it is hard to believe that now. It is, and was the banana capital of the country.
Burden of debt
How is Honduras going to get back on its feet? It is impossible to say. Unemployment will climb now that the plantations have been flattened. Bridges up and down the country are still broken. Countless roads have been ruined.
Not only is Honduras one of the world's poorest nations. It is one of the most deeply in debt. It repays loans to the IMF, World Bank and others at the rate of £1m ($1.7m) a day.
The industrialised nations have agreed to suspend these payments for three years - but then the financial shackles will be put back on.
But as I scan the devastation that has befallen Morolica I wonder whether there is a different type of moral hazard, for the rich nations of the world if they simply shrug their shoulders at the sight of this sad little country and insist that they want their money back.