Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In Central America, tragedies suffered, lessons learned?

Danilo Valladares in IPS: The disasters caused by torrential rains in South America have set off alarm bells in Central America, whose extreme vulnerability was made all too clear over the last few years when it was slammed by hurricanes Mitch and Stan and tropical storm Agatha. "We need a real effort to prevent tragedies, and a more in-depth response to the housing problem," Roly Escobar with CONAPAMG, a Guatemalan movement of slum dwellers fighting for the right to decent housing, told IPS.

The group reports that in this Central American country of 14 million people, 800,000 families life in 578 slums, 145 of which are in areas at risk of flooding and landslides, like hillsides, ravines or riverbanks. "For example, in the Santa Faz and Chinautla slums on the outskirts of Guatemala City, the soil is very sandy, which means the rain loosens it and causes mudslides," Escobar said.

Something similar happened on Jan. 11 in Rio de Janeiro, where heavy rains caused huge landslides that destroyed entire "favelas" or shantytowns. The catastrophe triggered a debate over the lack of zoning laws and emergency plans in Brazil.

More than 800 people have died and over 30,000 were left homeless by the flooding and mudslides in Brazil. Severe rainfall also caused landslides and heavy damages in Colombia and Venezuela in late 2010, claiming 174 lives in the former and 35 in the latter, and leaving more than 2.5 million people homeless in both countries.

Central America is familiar with such tragedies. Hurricanes Mitch in 1998 and Stan in 2005, and tropical storm Agatha in 2010, as well as a lengthy drought in 2009 left thousands dead and caused billions of dollars in damages to infrastructure and agriculture, mainly in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala….

A river that overflowed its banks in Guatemala following heavy rains produced by Tropical Storm Agatha in July, 2010

1 comment:

N3 said...

It is quote sad that so many lose their lives, but everything happens a reason and it is a reminder to all of us that you should live your life to the fullest!