Rain continues to fall over El Salvador and is forecast to do so for the next 48 hours. Last night the September 15th Dam was releasing water at an incredible 9000 cubic meter per second. To put that in perspective, at 2500 cm/sec the communities down river brace for flooding. The dam has not released at such high levels since Hurricane Mitch, which devastated the region in 1998. In fact, the total rainfall has now exceeded what fell during the infamous storm.
As a result, the Lempa Rivera is now pouring over the levees and into the communities. Our partners in the Lower Lempa report that there is 3.5 feet of water standing in Nueva Esperanza, Zanmorano, Ciudad Romero, and other communities. The water is so high that the shelters in these communities have flooded and are being evacuated. Los Lotes, Babilonia, El Angel, Conventos, Las Arañas, Marillo, La Casona, and Marillo II are also evacuated.
The Camandos de Salvamentos are reporting this morning that last night they were trapped in the community of El Marillo until 3:30 this morning trying to evacuate 32 people. They were successful in getting this group to the shelter in San Marcos Lempa, but another 300 people remain trapped in El Angel and El Marillo. One of the trapped is a 62-year old woman who has a fractured spinal chord caused when a tree fell on her during the storm. Salvadoran media are also reporting that rescue teams, including those from the military and Comandos de Salvamento are trapped with evacuees in communities cut off from the rest of the region by raging flood waters.
According to La Prensa Grafica, rescue squads evacuated 2000 people last night in the lower lempa, bringing the total number of evacuees in the region to 4000, a number that is likely grossly underreported.
Life in the shelters is not good. We spoke with one of our friends who had been in the shelter in Amando Lopez but was moved yesterday to a shelter in Jiquilisco. She said that they have no blankets or mattresses, and spent the night on a cold, wet concrete floor. With funding from Voices (i.e. those of you who have contributed so far), she is going to local store this morning to purchase underwear for elderly women in the shelter who have diarrhea and were unable to bring a change of clothes when they evacuated.
Nationwide, 32 people have died as a result of the storms that began last Tuesday. Tens of thousands are in shelters, and the entire country remains on red alert. Roads have been buried in landslides, bridges have been washed out, and much of the country is a disaster area.
Last night we received an email from our friend Cristina Starr who summed up a lot of the national efforts well:
“Government ministers and workers at all levels are laboring around the clock, the president comes on with messages every night and other officials during the day, journalists are working pretty much non-stop as well, you can see the stress accumulating.
Just a few weeks ago the Japanese government donated a bunch of little and big bulldozers and what good timing that was, they are all running around the country opening up roads.
In february the government got a loan from the world bank for 50 million dollars to be released when there are emergencies and apparently half of that will be coming shortly.”
There is some good news. For several years, Voices and many other international and domestic organizations have invested significant time and resources into preparing for disasters like this. And it seems to be paying off. The level of organization and coordination between the different government agencies and organizations has saved lives. But for these investments over the years, the death toll and impact on human life would be far greater.
We are continuing to support efforts in the shelter and will be taking more materials down to the communities today.
In previous posts we’ve call on you to support our efforts. So far you’ve come through with a bit over $5000 that is already buying mattresses, clothing and food. While this is a great start, the needs in the shelters are growing exponentially. Many readers of this blog have donated, but many more have not. Every little bit helps at this point, so please click on the DONATE NOW button and help now. We’ll likely be making wire transfers every day, so your support will arrive in the communities within 24 hours of your contribution.
And please share this post with your friends and family, and ask them to make a contribution.