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Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Eyewitness: Honduras flood disaster

Claudina Reyes (Photo: Christian Aid)
Claudina Reyes says rain is still falling, making matters worse
Heavy rain has soaked much of Central America since the beginning of October.

Honduras is one of the worst affected countries, with more than 30 people dead and 40,000 others forced from their homes.

Claudina Reyes, a Christian Aid representative in Honduras, describes the situation:

About 270,000 people have been affected by the disaster so far, either by being made homeless or losing their crops which would have been their main source of food for the next four months.

This is a huge number of people in a small country with a population of just seven million.

It is definitely the worst and most widespread flooding we have seen since Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and it is bringing back difficult memories for people here.

Men wade through flooded streets
Seventeen out of the 18 regions of Honduras have had flooding of some kind

This time it was not even a hurricane which caused such extensive damage, just a tropical depression causing sustained rainfall.

The country is much more vulnerable than it was 10 years ago because of widespread deforestation, which makes landslides more likely.

Landslides are even worse than flooding because homes and croplands are completely destroyed.

The land cannot be re-cultivated and the homes cannot be rebuilt when the water level subsides.>

Entire farmlands are submerged in water

Most of the crops that have been destroyed by this flooding are food staples

The level of poverty in Honduras has also increased since Mitch, meaning that more people are building homes on land that is marginal and particularly vulnerable to flooding.

The death toll is much lower this time, partly due to the lessons we learnt after Mitch.

Local groups, with support from Christian Aid, have done a lot of work with communities to help develop evacuation plans and early warning systems so that people are able to move to sturdier buildings in good time.

These orderly evacuations no doubt saved many lives.

I was not able to return to my own house all of last week because the roads were impassable. I had to stay with friends near the office.

But to be honest, I was spending so much time trying to communicate with colleagues in the field and plan the emergency response that I wasn't leaving the office until very late anyway.

My colleague Claudia had to evacuate her whole family because their house was uninhabitable.

Seventeen out of the 18 regions of Honduras have had flooding of some kind and it is still raining. Reports warn we will have rain until the end of the week.

Children sit in a makeshift tent

Thousands of people will be dependent on emergency rations for months to come

One of the main dams in the country had to be opened several times over the weekend to allow water to flow out in a controlled way so that it did not burst.

Most of the crops that have been destroyed by this flooding are food staples such as maize, beans, plantain and yucca.

Some cash crops like bananas, sugar cane and Africa palm (used for biofuels) have also been lost.

But our main worry is for food crops.

Christian Aid partners have been distributing basic food parcels since last week to families who have lost their crops or been forced to flee.

Families will not be able to replant until the rains stop and the water subsides, which will probably not be for a couple of weeks.

It will then be another four months before harvest is possible, meaning that thousands of people will be dependent on emergency rations for months to come.

So far the Honduran army has been using helicopters and boats to distribute emergency food and water to the most cut off communities, but there are not enough helicopters.

Venezuela, Cuba and Japan have sent emergency aid and proposals have been made to the United Nations Development Programme for help.



SEE ALSO
Honduras floods prompt emergency
21 Oct 08 |  Americas
Special Report: Hurricane Mitch
08 Mar 99 |  Hurricane Mitch
Country profile: Honduras
02 Sep 08 |  Country profiles

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