The New York Times
November 4, 1998

          Relief Effort in Honduras in Dire Need of Resources

          By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

               TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduran authorities struggled on Tuesday with meager
               resources to deal with catastrophic damage from torrential rains and floods spawned by a
          hurricane, as the official death toll here climbed to 362. Experts expect that figure to go far higher.

          Officials said thousands were still trapped by flooding in remote regions. Most major roads and
          bridges were destroyed by flood waters or blocked by mudslides after a week of relentless rain
          dumped several feet of water on this impoverished country in Central America.

          Military officials estimated that at least 5,000 people have died and that 600,000, 10 percent of the
          population, have lost their housing.

          Entire neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa, the capital, were washed away on Friday, when the Choluteca
          River broke over its banks and inundated many parts of the city, burying houses, cars and people in

          On Tuesday evening the waters had receded, and the sun came out. Thousands of tired and stunned
          people returned to the wreckage of their houses. Many had lost everything they owned. Others had
          lost family members.

          "I lost everything," Ana Mercedes Ramirez, 38, a homemaker, said as she peered into the remains of
          her house in the La Oya neighborhood. What was once her living room was filled with several feet of
          mud. "I've never seen anything like this, not even with Hurricane Fifi did anything like this happen."

          Fifi, in 1974, left 10,000 Hondurans dead.

          The latest storm, called Mitch, struck last week, leaving much of the downtown along the river a
          disaster scene. Factories, hospitals, prisons and bridges have been washed away. Some
          neighborhoods, where hundreds of houses stood, have become muddy wastelands of debris, rotting
          animals and human corpses,

          President Carlos Flores Facusse pleaded on Monday night for international aid. Top military officials
          conceded that they lacked equipment to rescue people in remote regions. Many families have been
          waiting for days without food or water on top of their houses or perching in trees, the officials said.

          "The demand is so great and the equipment we have is so little that we feel impotent," the Army
          chief-of-staff, Gen. Mario Hung Pacheco, said.

          More than 5,000 people were waiting for rescue in southeastern Choluteca, and at least 2,000 were
          trapped by flood waters in San Pedro Sula, the authorities said. There were reports from the
          northern town of El Progreso of desperate parents' tying small children to the limbs of tall trees to
          protect them from drowning.

          The hurricane was one of the most powerful storms to hit the Caribbean in modern times. The tightly
          wound eye of the storm never hit the mainland. Instead, it hovered over the Caribbean and the Gulf
          of Honduras for days, dumping up to two feet of rain a day.

          Honduran officials characterized the storm as the worst natural disaster in recent history. Floods and
          landslides have destroyed more than two-thirds of the crops, experts said, raising a possibility of
          severe food shortages, knocking out scores of bridges and blocking nearly every major road.

          The floods have wiped out many food warehouses and have halted most commercial traffic, making
          it nearly impossible to transport food, and many communities have no potable water, officials said.

          Officials also said there is a great danger of cholera and other diseases. With limited equipment, the
          military and rescue workers are having trouble recovering corpses, and the floods have wreaked
          havoc on sewer systems and have washed out latrines. The situation is a recipe for disease.

          Many residents of the capital doubted the government had the resources to rebuild the destroyed
          areas and were pinning their hopes on international aid operations.

          "Only with help from abroad can we make it out of this situation," said 23-ear old Ana Sepeda, an
          office worker whose house was severely damaged by the flood waters on Saturday. "We are trying
          to continue forward, but it is difficult, especially for the people who lost all their things."