By CYNTHIA CORZO and ARNOLD MARKOWITZ
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
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
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,
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,
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
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
Garifuna Indians and other ethnic groups.
Cuba also offered a team of doctors to Nicaragua, but President Arnoldo
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
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
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
once was, and should weaken when it moves over Yucatan.''
After that, he said, strong winds blowing high above the Gulf and Florida
should keep the storm from growing any stronger.
Far behind it, thousands of people in both Honduras and Nicaragua were
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,
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
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
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
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
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
San Pedro Sula.
After entering the Chamelecon River, they came upon a small island of people
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
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
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
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
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
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
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald