The Miami Herald
November 4, 1998
Nature slams Nicaragua again
Volcano erupts as Mitch rescues continue

             Herald Staff Writers

             A volcano erupted Tuesday in Nicaragua, close by the dormant one that fell as a
             mountain of mud and turned five villages into a cemetery four days earlier.

             Rumbling Cerro Negro dribbled lava down its north face, where there are no
             towns. That passes for a lucky break in a nation that must feel like Nature's
             punching bag, where anything can happen.

             Tuesday, these other things did:

             A woman wearing a life jacket was rescued from the Caribbean Sea. She was
             dehydrated and delirious. She said there were two others nearby. Excited rescuers
             thought they were from the Windjammer Barefoot Cruises sailing ship Fantome,
             missing since Oct. 27, but the woman was the only survivor -- but not of the
             Fantome, for which little hope remained.

             Hurricane Mitch, gone from Central America, demoted to a dying low pressure
             center on the Gulf of Mexico, began to recover there. It became a tropical storm
             again, aimed across the Yucatan Peninsula toward Havana and Miami.

             It may not get this far. Even if it does, National Hurricane Center forecasters doubt
             that it will be a problem again.

             Honduras and Nicaragua, the countries hardest hit by Mitch the First, are scarcely
             able to cope with that.

             People in both nations are still counting their dead, convinced that thousands of
             victims are out of sight and out of reach in towns completely isolated by floods and
             by wrecked highways and bridges.

             Cuban doctors bring help

             A team of 14 Cuban doctors arrived in Honduras on Tuesday to help with
             hurricane recovery. Nicaragua was offered the same thing, turned it down, but
             accepted 3,000 pounds of medical supplies from Cuba.

             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. Honduras later raised its verified death count to 362.
             Authorities think about 11,000 are missing and fear they are dead.

             Nobody 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.

             Survivors and rescue workers in the area buried by Hurricane Mitch and Casitas
             Volcano, 22 miles from the new eruption, heard something rumbling Sunday at
             midnight. They were afraid it was another mudslide. Tuesday afternoon, scientists
             flying to the Casitas catastrophe saw the Cerro Negro eruption from a helicopter.

             Last time the volcano erupted, in 1995, it lasted from May to August. Six
             thousand people in northwestern Nicaragua had to evacuate. No one could say if
             that will be necessary this time.

             Woman found clinging to wood

             The woman rescued in the Caribbean, where she was clinging to a piece of wood,
             was picked up by a helicopter rescue crew from the British frigate HMS Sheffield.
             She was delirious, in and out of consciousness.

             ``She is from Honduras and she was not on the Fantome,'' said Luis Diaz, a 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 the island of Guanaja.

             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.

             The group 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

             Help is needed virtually everywhere in Honduras and Nicaragua. Even though
             Mitch has left the region, the damage and danger continue.

             Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman warned of the risk of more landslides and
             urged people who live near volcanoes to move someplace else. His staff reported
             that 41 communities near volcanos face ``major risks'' of landslides like that of

             Thousands still stranded

             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.

             Cesar Trujillo, a 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:

             ``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

             ``He was accompanied by Edwin Chirinos, 35, a technician at the shop and
             nephew of Vasquez's wife, Daisy.

             ``He 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

             ``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, then continued to a hamlet called Monterrey.
           Tarantulas and scorpions

             ``Vasquez observed huge tarantulas on the fence posts. There were all kinds of
             snakes on the fence posts and on top of debris. What he saw the most were

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

             ``They said they rescued about 50 people.

             ``Daisy did not go with them. Her uncle, Julio Chirinos, 60, a cattle farmer,
             continued to be stranded on his rooftop. 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.''

             This report was supplemented by Herald wire services.