Epidemics feared in Mitch's wake
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (CNN) -- Authorities in Honduras and
Nicaragua fear an outbreak of cholera and other diseases in the wake of the
devastation from Hurricane Mitch.
Thousands of dead bodies and sewage contaminating drinking water
supplies have raised the specter of epidemic. With morgues
overwhelmed by the numbers of dead, bodies are being buried in mass
graves in the countryside.
"We're surrounded by mud, waste and contaminated water," said Menecan
de Manzia of the Honduran Red Cross. "This is going to cause epidemics."
In Tegucigalpa, where a million people were left without running water,
people were lining up at 5 a.m. to fill buckets at communal taps. Fuel was
being rationed, and food was in short supply.
With major routes into the capital cut off by mudslides, hundreds of people
formed a human chain around a road blockage Thursday to bring produce
into the city.
Aid pours in from U.S., Mexico, Europe
In Washington, President Bill Clinton ordered that $30 million in Defense
Department equipment and services and $36 million in food, fuel and other
aid be provided to Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and
Guatemala to ease the human suffering.
The $30 million in Pentagon aid will include emergency supplies,
search-and-rescue equipment and engineering services, officials said. More
U.S. helicopters will be sent to isolated areas to rescue stranded people and
to deliver relief supplies, officials said.
Aid was coming from elsewhere, too. Mexico launched one of the biggest
airlifts in its history and offered 28 helicopters to Honduras and Nicaragua to
help get food and other supplies around in those countries.
Europe announced it had approved $8 million in humanitarian aid.
But as badly needed relief supplies poured into the region, rescuers were
finding the aid difficult to distribute to areas where flooding wiped away most
of the roads and bridges.
Death toll 9,000, with thousands missing
The Honduran government estimates that as many as 6,500 Hondurans
died and up to 1 million are homeless as a result of Hurricane Mitch. All
told, officials say Mitch killed nearly 9,000 people in Central America,
although thousands more remain missing.
In northern Nicaragua, the grisly task of burying or burning bodies
continued near the Casitas volcano, where a crater lake collapsed Friday.
Two hundred more corpses were found there Wednesday, boosting the
confirmed death toll there to about 1,600. As many as 2,000 were feared
More than 750,000 people lost their homes or possessions across
Nicaragua, and 1,804 were listed as missing.
"People in Nicaragua are getting desperate," said Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa,
Nicaragua's ambassador to the United States. "The fact that they're hungry,
the fact that they're short of potable drinking water, the fact that they don't
have shelter could cause their sullenness to break into a more dangerous and
Travel plans for Mrs. Gore, Mrs. Clinton
The aid announced by the White House on Thursday is in addition to a
previous commitment to Central America, including personnel,
equipment and relief supplies.
The White House also announced that Clinton was dispatching Tipper Gore,
wife of Vice President Al Gore, to Central America on a mission to show
U.S. commitment to provide humanitarian relief.
She will be in the region Tuesday and Wednesday, accompanied by a small
congressional delegation and Brian Atwood, head of the Agency for
Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit Nicaragua and Honduras on November 16.
She then will stop in El Salvador and Guatemala before continuing on to
Haiti and the Dominican Republic for a visit that had been canceled due to
Hurricane Georges, which struck the Caribbean in October.
Correspondents Lucia Newman and Harris Whitbeck contributed to