Lower Lempa Flood Update – Monday Afternoon

Voices staff was able to get back down to the Lower Lempa this afternoon to coordinate with rescue efforts and get more information about the conditions. Here is the latest.

Currently there are 686 families from the Lower Lempa in the San Marcos shelter, with hundreds of other families from the region in the Tierra Blanca and Jiquilisco shelters. Though these families are safe from floodwaters, conditions in the shelters are bad. There are few mattresses or blankets, and food is scarce. Our staff is working with shelter organizers to provide meals and secure appropriate bedding and clothing.

For our readers from the South Bay Sanctuary Covenant, your partner community of Comunidad Octavio Ortiz (La Canoa) has sent 42 families to the shelter in San Marcos. The other 50 families are in the community shelter where they are safe, but completely cut off from assistance. Members of a military team are stuck in the community with them.

For other partners with ties to Amando Lopez – many families made it to the Jiquilisco shelter but many others remain in the community shelter, cut off from any assistance. They are safe for the time being, but are unable to evacuate.

This afternoon a member of Voices staff came across an agricultural cooperative in Mata de Piña where workers were trying to salvage their corn crop that they were almost ready to harvest. Members of the cooperative were working in waist-deep water, picking, shucking, and grinding corn in hopes of salvaging something. This is a bleak reminder of what is to come in the weeks and months ahead. The region has lost all its crops and will be dependent on food aide programs for the foreseeable future. Today – we’ll just focus on the basics… food, clothing, and shelter.

Rescue teams are currently evacuating approximately 160 people from Nueva Esperanza, where flood levels have now reached 1.5 meters (5 feet) deep.  Mayor Barahona of Jiquilisco is trying to evacuate everyone out, but efforts are slow due to the high water.

We have also heard an unconfirmed report that a boat carrying five people overturned and four people have drowned. Again, that report is unconfirmed and we are trying to get more details.

The September 15th Dam continues to release at 7200 cubic meters/sec, which is extremely high – as we’ve mentioned before, 2500 cm/sec triggers a red alert for flooding. We’ve been monitoring the river levels on the United States Geological Service page (link), and as of 2:00 pm Eastern Time the river remains 10.5 meters (34 feet) above normal.

Railroad bridge crossing the Lempa River taken on Thursday. Since then the river level has risen and is currently 5 feet from the bottom of the bridge

To put this in perspective, for readers who are familiar with the old railroad bridge that spans the Lempa River in San Marcos, the river is approximately 5 feet from the bottom of the bridge.

The international press finally began reporting on this story late yesterday. A couple hours ago the Christian Science Monitor posted a story written by Tim Muth (of Tim’s Blog fame) detailing the disaster. We are grateful that Tim list Voices on the Border as one of the organizations to consider for donations.

Please contribute today! Readers of this blog have been very generous in the past couple of days, but the needs are overwhelming. Thousands of people are in need of food, clothing and shelter. We will make another wire transfer down to El Salvador tomorrow morning. Please help us raise another $5000 between now and then to support local efforts. The Donate Now Button is at the top of this page, and it will only take a moment of your time.

Thank you!

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