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Tuesday, November 10, 1998 Published at 01:36 GMT

Nothing left but their lives

Nacaome's only bridge was destroyed

The town of Nacaome in southern Honduras was taken completely by surprise by the floods.

Watch Here and Now programme's special report from Central America
No-one was evacuated, as the authorities did not expect Hurricane Mitch to hit this far south.

Survivors have told BBC correspondent Philippa Thomas - the first journalist to visit the town - that they have been left with nothing but their lives.

Houses that took years to build came down in an hour as the flood waters swept through.

[ image:  ]
The residents, stranded by the destruction of the only bridge across the river into the town, are worried about the spread of disease - and where their next meal will come from.

Padre Marcel Donne said it was the biggest tragedy in living memory. "Some are thinking it is a punishment from God," he said.

Many in the town feel isolated, with relief organisations taking so long to get their operations started.

Regional authorities have begun to calculate the damage, but have no idea at this stage how many are dead or are still stranded in the remoter areas.

Another BBC journalist, George Eykyn, found village after village along Nicaragua's largest river either swamped or swept away.

Along the Rio Coco

Travelling from the regional centre of Waspan, he met communities of indigenous Indians which had seen no aid, nor relief teams.

Bare stumps in a sea of glutinous mud were all that remained of the village of San Alberto.

[ image: A sea of mud covers crops and houses]
A sea of mud covers crops and houses
Desperate survivors said all their crops had been ruined and that they had nothing left except the clothes they stood in.

Many had gone inland to makeshift camps. However food was running out and water used for cooking had been contaminated with dead animals.

Unless help arrives, then once the remaining animals are killed and eaten, there is no more food for the survivors from San Alberto.

A helicopter from British warship HMS Sheffield has been to Waspan to assess the situation.

With Nicaragua's own resources stretched so thin, the hopes of survivors along the Rio Coco may well depend on the British.

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