Series of Real-Time Reports Concerning the Devastation Caused by Hurricane Mitch - 30 Oct 98 to 03 Nov 98

Excerpted from: ERRI EMERGENCY SERVICES REPORT-EmergencyNet NEWS Service-Friday, October 30, 1998 Vol. 2 - 303

ERRI MORNING NEWS SUMMARY

SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS (EmergencyNet News) - Tropical Storm Mitch, its winds weakened to 40 miles an hour on Friday, unleashed a new round of killer floods and mudslides on Thursday that consumed homes, businesses and farm fields. Billed just days ago as the fourth strongest hurricane of the century, Mitch has been blamed for up to 50 deaths, about 30 of them in Honduras and the evacuation of more than 500,000 people across much of Central America.

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DISASTER NEWS

LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN

MITCH DOWNGRADED TO TROPICAL STORM;
BUT DANGER STILL NOT OVER

From the ERRI Watch Center

SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS (EmergencyNet News) - Tropical Storm Mitch, its winds weakened to 40 miles an hour Friday, unleashed a new round of killer floods and mudslides on Thursday that consumed homes, businesses and farm fields. Billed just days ago as the fourth strongest hurricane of the century, Mitch has been blamed for up to 50 deaths, about 30 of them in Honduras and the evacuation of more than 500,000 people across much of Central America.

In Nicaragua, 11 people were killed in mudslides on Thursday, bringing Mitch's death toll in that country to 19. Six other people were reported missing. Heavy rains also forced thousands to be evacuated from their homes in Nicaragua and Guatemala, and left an estimated 4,000 homeless in Costa Rica.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Mitch could suddenly swerve west-northwest or northwest, taking it to the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico. The center warned that if Mitch moved back over water, the storm could regain some of its strength.

At 0400 EST (0900 GMT), the center of the storm was 50 miles south of La Ceiba, Honduras. With top wind speeds dropping Friday to 40 mph, it had weakened considerably from the rare Category Five hurricane it became Tuesday with "catastrophic" 180-mph winds capable of leveling concrete buildings.

On Thursday, Mitch devastated the Honduran coast and the island of Guanaja, a popular tourist spot, with strong winds and heavy rain. On nearby Roatan, another popular tourist island, winds of 100 mph blew off roofs, and high seas destroyed at least a dozen houses in the island community of Punta Gorda. On the mainland coast, Mitch sent huge waves crashing onto the shore, uprooted trees and knocked over light poles.

Farther away from Mitch's center, days of rain turned the Chamelecon and Ulua Rivers into raging torrents near San Pedro Sula, an industrial city of 600,000, about 100 miles north of the Honduran capital. By Thursday afternoon, most major roads out of San Pedro were covered with water and thousands of people were wading from their inundated towns, on foot or on bicycles.


Excerpted from: ERRI EMERGENCY SERVICES REPORT-EmergencyNet NEWS Service-Saturday, October 31, 1998 Vol. 2 - 304

ERRI MORNING NEWS SUMMARY

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS (EmergencyNet News) - Tropical Storm Mitch heaped more torrential rain on Central America on Saturday and officials said the death toll of 158 after its relentless seven-day rampage would likely increase. Mitch was packing winds of 50 mph as it advanced on the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, where thousands fled their makeshift houses perched on hills around the city, adding to the plight of 500,000 made homeless in the country alone. Panic gripped the city's one million inhabitants as they watched rivers crossing the city threaten to engulf its six main bridges.

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ESR CLOSE UP

CENTRAL AMERICAN DEATH TOLL RISES DRAMATICALLY
IN THE WAKE OF MITCH

From the ERRI Watch Center

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS (EmergencyNet News) - Tropical storm Mitch heaped more torrential rain on Central America on Saturday and officials said the death toll of 158 after its relentless seven-day rampage would likely increase. Mitch was packing winds of 50 mph as it advanced on the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, where thousands fled their makeshift houses perched on hills around the city. Panic gripped the city's one million inhabitants as they watched rivers crossing the city threaten to engulf its six main bridges.

The frantic mayor of Tegucigalpa said, "This is a disaster and it will be a catastrophe. Tegucigalpa will be destroyed if the rains continue."

Emergency workers in Honduras, which bore the brunt of Mitch when it was an unusually powerful hurricane earlier in the week, reported 60 dead. Lt. Colonel Guillermo Erazo of Honduras' disaster coordination committee, said, "The danger for the next 48 hours is still incredibly high. It hasn't stopped raining and all of the soil is already completely saturated."

Mitch's tropical storm force winds extended for hundreds of miles into neighboring Nicaragua, where the body count leaped to 90 late Friday, with an additional 120 people unaccounted for. The fate was also unknown of 31 crew and passengers lost at sea on a luxury yacht once owned by Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The U.S. Coast Guard said it was searching for the Fantome, a 258-foot four-masted schooner missing since Tuesday.

In Mexico, four people drowned crossing a swollen river caused by Mitch's torrential rains, which also killed one person each in Jamaica, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama earlier in the week.

Even though it has weakened considerably, the storm continued to pour 25 inches a day on coastal areas of Nicaragua and Honduras. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said: "These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides ... especially in association with higher terrain."

In Honduras, the storm had destroyed an estimated 7,000 homes. Scores of towns and villages on the Honduran coast were flooded up to their roofs. Flood victims clung to trees and rooftops, crying out for aid that did not come as thick clouds grounded helicopter rescue missions.

In Tegucigalpa, hundreds of heavily armed police in the capital tried to keep 2,500 prisoners from breaking out of a jail whose walls were collapsing from the floodwaters. One escaping prisoner was shot and killed.


Excerpted from: ERRI EMERGENCY SERVICES REPORT-EmergencyNet NEWS Service-Sunday, November 1, 1998 Vol. 2 - 305

ERRI MORNING NEWS SUMMARY

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS (EmergencyNet News) - Floods blamed on Mitch, now a tropical depression, swept hundreds to their deaths in Central America and hundreds more were missing Sunday after floodwaters sent hills crashing down on villages. According to officials in affected countries, the storm has killed at least 485 people in the region so far. Red Cross workers trekked through remote northwestern Nicaragua to the Casita volcano, where radio reports said 1,000 people may have died when a massive mudslide buried ramshackle villages. Officials say they think 70 people died there.

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ESR CLOSE UP

DEATH TOLL FROM MITCH CONTINUES TO RISE
From the ERRI Watch Center

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS (EmergencyNet News) - Floods blamed on Mitch, now a tropical depression, swept hundreds to their deaths in Central America and hundreds more were still missing on Sunday after floodwaters sent hills crashing down on villages. According to officials in affected countries, the storm has killed at least 485 people in the region so far.

Red Cross workers trekked through remote northwestern Nicaragua to the Casita volcano, where radio reports said 1,000 people may have died when a massive mudslide buried ramshackle villages. Officials say they think 70 people died there. Guatemala braced for massive flooding as Mitch, once the fourth most powerful hurricane this century, swept across its borders from neighboring Honduras, where it dumped enough rain to flood city streets to the tops of telephone posts.

At 0400 EST, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center of the storm was 70 miles west-northwest of Guatemala City and moving west- northwest at nine mph with little change expected over the next 24 hours. Its winds continued at 35 mph, with higher gusts, and the Hurricane center predicted 5 to 10 inches more rain on Sunday in parts of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and southeastern Mexico. Its rainfall had slowed from a peak of 25 inches per-day.

In the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, authorities warned people of Mitch's approach, mindful of the devastation in September when intense floods caused by a series of tropical storms left at least 200 dead on the impoverished state's Pacific Coast.

A rare category five hurricane early in the week with winds of 185 mph, Mitch had left at least 231 people dead in Honduras and another 137 in Nicaragua, not including the 70 bodies pulled from the mud in the shadow of the Casita volcano. Floods and landslides killed 14 people in Guatemala on Saturday, nine of them near the town of Coban, which is located about 125 miles north of Guatemala City. Five of the victims were a mother and her four children, swept away in a river.

El Salvador declared a state of national emergency and authorities evacuated about 7,000 families from their homes in the southeast of the country near the Honduran border. In Nicaragua, local radio reported that up to 1,000 people might have been buried alive in a huge landslide on the slopes of the Casita volcano. But the Nicaraguan Red Cross said officials in Chinandega, some 55 miles north of the capital, Managua, had reported only 70 dead.

Bodies buried in mud reportedly littered the flooded streets of the capital of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Saturday as rains of almost Biblical proportions began to recede and looters took advantage of the chaos to strip supermarket and shop shelves bare. As many as a third of the houses in the Honduran capital of 1 million people were badly damaged or simply swept away by the raging waters of the Choluteca River and other waterways that run down from nearby hills.


Excerpted from: ERRI EMERGENCY SERVICES REPORT-EmergencyNet NEWS Service-Monday, November 2, 1998 Vol. 2 - 306

ERRI MORNING NEWS SUMMARY

MANAGUA, NICARAGUA (EmergencyNet News) - The death toll from one of Central America's worst ever storms seemed certain to rise Monday as rescue workers searched remote disaster zones, including a volcano where up to 1,500 people are feared to have been buried in a mudslide. The total confirmed toll across the region stood at about 1,300 late Sunday after the tail end of Hurricane Mitch dumped heavy rains on Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras last week. Nicaraguan officials feared that up to 1,500 may have been buried alive Saturday when the torrential rains caused the slopes of Casita volcano in the northwest to give way, burying whole villages.

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ESR CLOSE UP

THE "CENTRAL AMERICAN DISASTER"
From the ERRI Watch Center

MANAGUA, NICARAGUA (EmergencyNet News) - The death toll from one of Central America's worst ever storms seemed certain to rise Monday as rescue workers searched remote disaster zones, including a volcano where up to 1,500 people are feared to have been buried in a mudslide. The total confirmed toll across the region stood at about 1,300 late Sunday after the tail end of Hurricane Mitch dumped heavy rains on Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras last week.

Nicaraguan officials feared that up to 1,500 may have been buried alive on Saturday when the torrential rains caused the slopes of Casita volcano in the northwest to give way, burying whole villages. Stunned officials from Honduras to El Salvador, struggling to cope with downed bridges, wrecked roads and hundreds of thousands of homeless, appealed for international help.

The Nicaraguan Red Cross said at least 610 people had died on the Casita volcano alone, some 75 miles northwest of the capital Managua. One survivor said, "The mountain exploded, a wave of mud, water, rocks and trees came pouring down, leaving nothing in its path."

Red Cross officials said the total death toll in Nicaragua was 808 while thousands remained missing. One Red Cross official said, "These are just preliminary numbers. It could be months before we know how many people are really dead."

Mitch appeared to be dissipating early Monday near the border between Mexico and Guatemala, but emergency workers across the region were only just beginning the task of rescuing thousands of people stranded by floodwaters in remote areas. In Honduras, the national disaster committee said that 362 people were confirmed dead. Among them was Mayor Cesar Castellanos of the capital Tegucigalpa, killed with three others on board a helicopter that crashed while surveying storm damage.

Honduran police said they had arrested 250 people for looting wrecked supermarkets and stores in Tegucigalpa. They were also fighting to contain a bloody riot at a Tegucigalpa jail housing 3,500, including 2,500 inmates transferred from another jail after it became flooded.

In El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, officials said 70 were dead. President Armando Calderon appealed for international help to deal with the "Central American disaster." More people died in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica. The fate of 31 crew on board a tall ship missing in the Caribbean since Tuesday was still unknown Monday.


Excerpted from: ERRI EMERGENCY SERVICES REPORT-EmergencyNet NEWS Service-Tuesday, November 3, 1998 Vol. 2 - 307

ERRI MORNING NEWS SUMMARY

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS (EmergencyNet News) - Devastated Honduras appealed for help and set a curfew to stop looters while rescuers throughout Central America continued to dig for up to 7,000 dead victims on Monday after one of century's most destructive Atlantic storms. Their fragile economies ruined, impoverished Honduras and Nicaragua bore the brunt of horrific deluges and mudslides from a weeklong rampage by Mitch. Up to 1,500 people were buried in mud in the shadows of Nicaragua's Casita volcano. Guatemala, pounded Monday by the tail end of the fourth most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, declared a state of emergency, and southern Mexico braced for its own punishment as heavy rain began to fall on southern Chiapas state.

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ESR CLOSE UP

AS MANY AS 7,000 FEARED DEAD IN CENTRAL AMERICA
From the ERRI Watch Center

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS (EmergencyNet News) - Devastated Honduras appealed for help and set a curfew to stop looters while rescuers throughout Central America continued to dig for up to 7,000 dead victims on Monday after one of century's most destructive Atlantic storms. Their fragile economies ruined, impoverished Honduras and Nicaragua bore the brunt of horrific deluges and mudslides from a weeklong rampage by Mitch. Up to 1,500 people were buried in mud in the shadows of Nicaragua's Casita volcano.

Guatemala, pounded on Monday by the tail end of the fourth most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, declared a state of emergency, and southern Mexico braced for its own punishment as heavy rain began to fall on southern Chiapas state. In Honduras, floods have submerged half the country and one million people were homeless. The government has suspended civil liberties and ordered a curfew to stop looters taking advantage of the chaos, especially in the capital Tegucigalpa where a third of all homes had been swept into raging floodwaters or badly damaged. The official death toll for Honduras still stood at 362 on Monday but officials said they feared it would rise to 5,000.

In Nicaragua, villages were hit by collapsing mud from the slopes of the Casita volcano, located about 75 miles northwest of the capital Managua. Of 164 houses which once made up the farming village of Rolando Rodriguez, only one was still standing Monday in a vast sea of mud that stretched as far as the eye could see. Half-buried and horribly disfigured bodies poked from mud that reached to the thighs, waiting to be doused with gasoline and set afire to prevent the spread of disease.

The Nicaraguan government was considering declaring the whole area a "national cemetery". The floods were the worst natural disaster to hit the country of 4.6 million, which was torn by bitter civil war in the 1980s, since a 1972 earthquake razed Managua. Nicaragua's official bodycount remained at 808 on Monday. Nearly a fifth of the population had sought refuge in emergency shelters.

In El Salvador, the smallest country in the Americas, the national emergency committee increased its death toll late Monday to 174 from 148 while Guatemala said at least 93 people there had died, bringing the total official tally for the whole region after a week of furious rains to 1,444. The fate of 31 crew on board the four-masted schooner Fantome missing off the coast of Honduras for a week looked grim after the U.S. Coast Guard found debris from the ship.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said if Mitch's feared death toll of 7,000 was confirmed, it would probably rank as the sixth most destructive Atlantic storm on record.

(c) Copyright, EmergencyNet NEWS Service, 1998. All Rights Reserved. Redistribution without permission is prohibited by law.

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