The Miami Herald
November 4, 1998
Nicaragua rejects aid from Cuban doctors
Medical supplies will be accepted

             Herald Staff Writers

             A team of 14 Cuban doctors arrived in Honduras on Tuesday to help with
             hurricane recovery, while a dehydrated, delirious woman in a life jacket was
             rescued from the Caribbean Sea.

             And one of history's deadliest hurricanes came back to weak, faltering life in the
             Gulf of Mexico. The storm's forecast path was toward Miami, but it might not last
             long enough to get here.

             The U.S. Agency for International Development relayed reports that listed 258
             people confirmed dead in Honduras and guessed that 5,000 others are still to be
             found and counted. Another report said 11,000 people in Honduras are missing
             and feared dead.

             Nobody really knows how it will turn out there or in Nicaragua, where the
             government's latest report was that 1,212 people had been killed and about 2,000
             were missing. Guatemala confirmed 69 deaths, El Salvador 144, Costa Rica
             seven, Panama and Mexico one each.

             Woman found clinging to wood

             The rescued woman, clinging to a piece of wood, was picked up by a helicopter
             rescue crew from a British frigate, the HMS Sheffield.

             She was delirious, in and out of consciousness. A miracle survivor of the missing
             Windjammer schooner Fantome? A survivor, yes, but not of the Fantome.

             ``She is from Honduras and she was not on the Fantome,'' said Luis Diaz, a
             disappointed senior chief petty officer of the U.S. Coast Guard. ``A search of the
             area where she said there were other survivors turned up nothing but debris.''

             A week after Fantome lost radio contact with its Miami Beach headquarters, the
             only signs of the luxury sailing ship's existence are two fields of flotsam on the sea.
             The survivor was found about 25 miles north of Guanaja, where the hurricane was
             blowing 135 mph last Tuesday.

             The survivor's name wasn't made public. She might have been on a fishing boat
             that sank on a reef with 14 people aboard.

             Cuban doctors bring help

             About 150 miles away, at the Caribbean coastal city of La Ceiba, the Cuban
             doctors arrived on a plane chartered with humanitarian aid. The chief of the
             delegation, Dr. Alberto Gonzalez, said they brought a mobile hospital to treat ``the
             Honduran brothers who are suffering.''

             They were heading for La Mosquitia, an eastern Honduras area populated by
             Garifuna Indians and other ethnic groups.

             Cuba also offered a team of doctors to Nicaragua, but President Arnoldo Aleman,
             a strong objector to Fidel Castro's regime, told Health Minister Martha McCoy to
             turn it down. Nicaragua did accept Cuba's offer of 30,000 pounds of medical

             Carlos Dotres, the Cuban health minister, said the offer of doctors was a
             humanitarian gesture: ``Our brotherly aid and our good will are available.''

             The medical team sent to Honduras includes general practitioners, obstetricians,
             pediatricians, surgeons, epidemiologists and other specialists. A similar brigade
             was sent by Cuba to the Dominican Republic to help the victims of Hurricane
             Georges and is still working there.
             Mitch is `no longer intense'

             Mitch's resurrection apparently is nothing to fear. The long-range forecast was for
             the storm to leave the Gulf of Mexico, cross the Yucatan Peninsula, pass Havana
             and reach Miami on Thursday with winds blowing about 35 mph, said National
             Hurricane Center forecaster Richard Pasch:

             ``It should be emphasized that this system is no longer the intense hurricane that it
             once was, and should weaken when it moves over Yucatan.''

             After that, he said, strong winds blowing high above the Gulf and Florida straits
             should keep the storm from growing any stronger.

             Far behind it, thousands of people in both Honduras and Nicaragua were still
             stranded on hilltops, roofs and other precarious spots. There are not enough
             government rescuers, boats or aircraft to rescue everyone quickly, so civilians are
             pitching in -- sometimes bravely, dangerously.

             Engineer becomes rescuer

             Cesar Trujillo, a manufacturer's representative for U.S. furniture makers, reported
             the weekend adventures of his friend Andres Vasquez, 40, an electrical engineer
             with a shop in San Pedro Sula. Here is Trujillo's report in his own words:

             Vasquez went to an agricultural area called Monterrey, outside of San Pedro Sula,
             on Saturday to rescue some of his wife's relatives who were stranded on a
             rooftop. He was accompanied by Edwin Chirinos, 35, a technician at the shop and
             nephew of Vasquez's wife, Daisy.

             Vasquez saw a man who had been rescued by boat and then bitten by a snake die
             on the way to dry land. His body was thrown overboard to make room for other

             On another boat, a snake wrapped around a firefighter's wrist while he was
             rescuing someone. He was lucky to shake it off without being bitten.

             Killing pigs to survive

             My friend reported seeing people stranded on a small hill and killing pigs in order
             to survive. He did not see how they were cooking the meat, and believed they
             were eating the meat raw.

             At 8 a.m. Saturday, he went to an area called Choloma, about 20 minutes from
             San Pedro Sula.

             After entering the Chamelecon River, they came upon a small island of people and
             rescued about 15 of them, took them back to dry land and then continued to a
             hamlet called Monterrey.

             The current was so strong when they got to Monterrey that it crashed the boat
             against a retaining wall of a home. The water was about 10 feet high.

             Tarantulas and scorpions

             Vasquez observed huge tarantulas like he had never seen on the tops of the fence
             posts. There were all kinds of snakes on the fence posts and on top of floating
             debris. What he saw the most were scorpions.

             Because of the ferocity of the floodwaters, Vasquez and Chirino turned back
             about a kilometer before reaching Ceibita, where Daisy's family lives. They
             continued to rescue people on their way back and returned to dry land about

             They said they rescued about 50 people -- despite the restricted access imposed
             on the area by the fire department's rescue crews.

             Daisy did not go with them. Her uncle, Julio Chirinos, 60, a cattle farmer,
             continued to be stranded on the rooftop of his home. The next day, Andres rented
             a swamp boat. That time, he was able to reach Chirinos and his family to deliver
             food and water. They had not eaten in four days.

             Vasquez observed dead cattle, pigs and dogs floating in the water. Chirinos did
             not lose his cattle, as he was able to herd them to a small hill. Chirinos chose to
             remain behind to protect his herd from cattle thieves who are running around the


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