Effort in Honduras in Dire Need of Resources
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduran authorities struggled on Tuesday with
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.
thousands were still trapped by flooding in remote regions. Most major
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.
estimated that at least 5,000 people have died and that 600,000, 10 percent
population, have lost their housing.
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
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
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,
Flores Facusse pleaded on Monday night for international aid. Top military
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,"
chief-of-staff, Gen. Mario Hung Pacheco, said.
More than 5,000
people were waiting for rescue in southeastern Choluteca, and at least
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.
was one of the most powerful storms to hit the Caribbean in modern times.
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.
characterized the storm as the worst natural disaster in recent history.
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,
it nearly impossible to transport food, and many communities have no potable water, officials said.
said there is a great danger of cholera and other diseases. With limited
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.
of the capital doubted the government had the resources to rebuild the
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
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."