El Salvador deals with devastation in the wake of heavy rains

By Oxfam

A week after torrential rains and a slow-moving Hurricane Ida caused severe flooding in several regions of El Salvador, more than 15,000 displaced Salvadorans are living in shelters with more than 190 confirmed deaths and another 80 still missing.

Heavy winds and rain hit El Salvador during the evening of November 7th and the early morning of November 8th, resulting in landslides and flooding that swallowed entire neighborhoods and caused severe damage to roads and bridges. According to national authorities, the storm produced as much as 355 millimeters (nearly 14 inches) of rain in four hours in some areas, making this the second deadliest weather disaster in El Salvador history. The deadliest was Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed 240 people.

“The scenes of floods and landslides that struck El Salvador last week reflect a storm of almost unbelievable intensity. More than 200 people are dead or missing, more than 1,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, and crops that the rural population depends on for food have been obliterated,” said Carolina Castrillo, a regional director for Oxfam in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, based in San Salvador.

In the initial stages of the response, more than 70 Oxfam-supported community protection committees were mobilized to help survivors evacuate their towns and villages and reach the safety of shelters in the coastal area of Puerto La Libertad, one of the hardest hit zones, as well as in San Salvador and municipalities in the departments of Zacatecoluca, San Vicente, La Paz, and Cuscatlán. So far, Oxfam has supplied nearly 6,000 people in this region with food, water, personal hygiene kits, and other items.

“Needs are significant across all of the affected areas with only 123 shelters accommodating more than 15,000 displaced residents. The damage is severe, and reconstruction and replacement of houses, infrastructure, and crops will take a long time. We will continue working with partners and local authorities to contribute to the recovery process,” said Castrillo.

“This week, Oxfam plans to reach more than 6,000 people with clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene promotion,” says Enrique García, Oxfam’s humanitarian coordinator for Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. “Until now, we have focused our efforts on temporary shelters, but people are now returning to their communities where there are no proper water and sanitation facilities. We will begin by installing water tanks in some of these communities.”

In the wake of Hurricane Mitch, many Salvadoran communities joined forces with aid providers to reduce the deadly outcomes of violent storms and earthquakes. Over the past four years, Oxfam has supported local organizations to help form and train committees within the villages to operate early warning systems, develop evacuation plans, and administer first aid. Oxfam also built a warehouse in San Nicolas Lempa in the department of Sin Vicente to facilitate delivery of emergency supplies to shelters in surrounding disaster-prone areas.

“Community protection committees, formed by Oxfam and partners over the last three years, were activated immediately to provide clean water and sanitation services. In some areas, they assisted the evacuation of families at risk, saving lives in the middle of the night, and used tools provided by Oxfam to help families clean up debris the next day,” said García.

For updated information and to donate, please visit www.oxfamamerica.org.

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