Hondurans hoped for family time and festivities during the Semana Morazánica holiday. Instead, Hurricane Eta arrived on November 6, 2020.
For days, the Category 4 hurricane’s vanguard winds had blown in heavy rains. By November 14, Eta left a wide trail of destruction in Honduras. Over 2.9 million people are affected by flooding, per a United Nations report (available in Spanish only). Nearly 175,000 people have been evacuated, 45,000 are in temporary shelters and over 103,000 are stranded beyond any contact. The death toll of 64 may rise dramatically as the waters recede.
A flood of failures
Development and Peace — Caritas Canada’s partners, among the first responders to the hurricane, are reporting that:
- Over half of the 2 million residents of the agriculturally important Sula Valley region have been affected by surges in the Ulúa and Chamelecón rivers.
- Communities in former fruit plantation workers’ camps around El Progreso in the Yoro Department are the worst affected.
- Even before Eta properly arrived, the Cortés Department municipalities of Puerto Cortés, Potrerillos, Pimienta and Villanueva were flooded.
- Soon, most of Cortés was underwater, with the departments of Olancho and El Paraíso meeting the same fate shortly thereafter.
- Many communities are completely cut off and people are still stranded on their roofs.
- With water rising to ceiling levels inside houses, sometimes within minutes, many have lost all their possessions.
Our partners point to short- and long-term policy failures to explain this damage. Although Eta’s pace, path and power were known, authorities took little pre-emptive action. They even downplayed the dangers of the pandemic and the storm to promote internal tourism ahead of the Semana Morazánica holiday. Flooding was also exacerbated by soil erosion and deforestation from decades of monocultural agriculture.
A surge of solidarity
With Development and Peace’s support, the amalgamated Jesuit organizations, Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC) and Radio Progreso (RP) promote democracy, human rights and ecological justice; train community journalists and leaders; and help Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean communities defend their lands.
ERIC/RP are coordinating the relief work of the Emergency and Solidarity Network humanitarian coalition, with RP serving as field headquarters and supply centre. Over the past days, they have:
- Initiated Phase 1 of the relief and rescue operation, concentrating on affected communities not served by government agencies or other humanitarian organizations
- Dispatched teams to assess needs in the worst-hit northern communities
- Documented over 2,400 in need of emergency aid
- Worked with community leaders to identify 1,000 of the neediest families and distributed basic rations of beans and rice to them
- Rallied and a team of 40 youth volunteers to help with relief work Used local knowhow and connections to help the Red Cross collect and collate vital field information
- Soon, teams will evaluate damage to water supply lines, power grids and crops. In the next phase, hygiene products including masks, diapers and sanitary napkins will be distributed.
Calling Canadians to compassion
Hurricane Eta revived many traumatic memories of Hurricane Mitch, which killed 7,000 Hondurans in 1998. Back then, Canadians responded with overwhelming generosity to Development and Peace’s appeal for help.
Today, we are again asking Canadians to stand in solidarity with the Honduran people. Development and Peace has already allocated $20,000 to facilitate transport, logistics, the provision of rations and hygiene kits and the production of informative and supportive radio programming. With your help, our partners will be able reach even more people.