Dozens of people from the remote Guatemala village in San Cristobal have gone missing after a landslide last week, leaving soil 50 feet deep in some places. Some of his relatives already think their loved ones are gone.
“There was a big tragedy here,” village resident Roland Calcheck told Reuters. “I lost 23 members of my family. My father, my mother, my wife, my three children, grandchildren, sisters, sisters.”
According to the Red Cross, more than 3.6 million people in Central America are affected to varying degrees. “We’re talking about a huge impact across the region,” Santiago Luogo of the Red Cross said.
Dozens have been killed so far, and this number is expected to increase. The real downfall from this storm, however, may only be the beginning.
Kovid-19 will spread … but everything will happen
For hurricane survivors, there remains a deadly threat. Health officials in Central America are deeply concerned about the possible spread of Kovid-19 in the wake of Eta.
In Honduras, some shelters for hurricane refugees are crowded and poorly ventilated, and social disturbances are often impossible.
“It is a challenge to bring them to the safe ground,” said Mauricio Pereades of the Red Cross. “Now you have all these people together, so it’s a dual challenge to protect not only those who have been affected, but also protect the first responders.”
Even before the storm, the public health system in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala was poor which struggled in the fight against Kovid-19. Local hospitals will now face other diseases related to hurricanes and additional burden ranging from dengue to cholera to yellow fever.
And while children are usually the worst of Kovid-19, it will not happen with other diseases. “We are going to pick up the Pandora’s box of a perfect storm or diseases that mainly affect children,” Mark Connolly, a UNICEF representative in Honduras, told CNN.
Connolly says more children cannot die in Central America if there are such things as necessary aid, water purification pills, water filters and overall rapid repair of neighborhood water systems.
The Red Cross says the scale of the problem is so vast, it plans to operate continuously for at least 18 months, with the goal of helping the worst-affected 75,000 people in those three countries.
Without holding them back, many will move north
The three Central American countries have the most difficult, no widely effective social safety nets. The ability of these federal governments to respond with the resources necessary to mount an adequate response is limited.
The supplies that any large fleet of trucks or aircraft make will come largely due to the efforts of NGOs and whatever generous countries are willing to offer.
Reconstruction in many of these communities would be extremely slow if non-existent. There is no job, no home, and no clear vision of what the future holds, there will be very few options for many people. The destination is clear.
“Lots of these families lost everything,” Connolly said. “So, now his only hope may be to get a loan for a few thousand dollars and move north and into Mexico and the United States.”
What awaits those migrants from across the border is unclear. For example, Mexico has closed all its borders for Central American migrants over the past year, with the Trump administration seeking to support the US with economic threats such as tariffs on Mexican imports.
And should they be allowed into Mexico, what fate awaits them on the US southern border? The Trump administration has blocked immigration to all, denying entry to anyone who tries to go from humanitarian grounds to political asylum.
President-Elect Joe Biden has said he will reverse many of Trump’s policies. But as the Kovid-19 epidemic continues in the US, it is unclear what the new administration will do to a large number of new migrants.
A school crisis
Others will choose to live, despite the mayhem around them.
Adults will try to get back to work, trying to get food and water on the table. But there is a more pressing crisis for the children of the region. Millions of children have already been out of school since spring due to the closure of Kovid-19. Now, coming back to class will become even more uncertain.
For example, the situation was earlier in Honduras [the storm] There were about 6,000 schools without water, “Connolly said,” Now you can do this many times because the water system has collapsed in many areas. “
Many schools were also damaged or destroyed during the storm. And which were often not turned into shelters for struggling families.
All of them can also add up to joint delays before children can get back to learning.
Central America is no stranger to devastating storms. Hurricane Fifi killed thousands of people in 1974. Hurricane Mitch wiped out hundreds of thousands of homes in 1998.
The right loss from the Eta prospect will not be known for a while. But a powerful storm combined with the worst epidemic in 100 years will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the natural disasters that will ever affect the region.
And the situation may soon worsen. The National Hurricane Center says it is very likely that a storm will develop in the Caribbean in the next few days with most models in agreement that it will make landfall in northern Honduras over the next week.