At a glance: Nicaragua

Hurricane Felix: Nicaragua bears the brunt and Honduras endures heavy rains

UNICEF Image: Nicaragua, Hurricane Felix
© AP Photo/Felix
In La Ceiba, Honduras, people wade through floodwaters caused by heavy rains as Hurricane Felix passes through the region.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, USA, 5 September 2007 – The eye of Hurricane Felix touched down in the northeastern town of Sandy Bay on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua early yesterday, blowing the roofs off 90 per cent of homes and knocking out electricity over a wide area. An estimated 30,000 Nicaraguans have been affected by the disaster.

The hurricane, later downgraded as it headed overland to Honduras, was a highly dangerous Category 5 storm when it struck Sandy Bay. Authorities suspended school in the nearby town of Bilwi and evacuated local communities. Temporary shelters have been erected on higher ground in the area, while schools that are in stable buildings are being used for shelter as well.

“The electricity’s off,” UNICEF Representative in Nicaragua Debora Comini said in a telephone interview with UNICEF Radio, reporting on the situation in Bilwi as the hurricane made landfall. “Two telecommunications towers fell. All the roofs seem to be flying away. Even the hotel that is being used as a shelter is without a roof now.”

UNICEF Image: Nicaragua, Hurricane Felix
© Reuters/Garrido
Children lined up to leave the Honduran island Roatan as Hurricane Felix headed for the Central American region.

Emergency preparations

UNICEF and its governmental and UN partners, including the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization, are making urgent preparations to meet the demand for emergency supplies and services that is expected in the coming days – not only in Nicaragua but also in other Central American countries that may suffer from the effects of Felix.

Although the system has weakened into a tropical storm, it is still expected to bring heavy rains today to landlslide-prone areas of Honduras, where UNICEF and its partners have pre-positioned hygiene kits, water and sanitation supplies and education materials for affected children.

Meanwhile, a needs assessment is under way in the Nicaraguan coastal communities that bore the brunt of the hurricane.

Need for extra support

“What we are really concerned about is the communities further north, because they are very isolated indigenous communities,” said Ms. Comini. “The living conditions are very basic and there’s no infrastructure to withstand this kind of wind and rain.

“There will be a serious water and sanitation problem,” she predicted. “We had a similar situation a couple of years ago, and all the wells got flooded and contaminated. There is going to be an immediate need for food distribution, and also a long-term need, as many of the crops are likely to be ruined.”

As the new school year has been disrupted, “there is going to be a need for extra support to ensure there is continuity in educational activities,” added Ms. Comini.

UNICEF Image: Nicaragua, Hurricane Felix
© AP Photo/Miranda, La Prensa
Families evacuated Puerto Cabezas on Nicaragua's northeastern coast on 3 September as Hurricane Felix neared.

Region-wide impact

UNICEF Nicaragua is spearheading the provision of shelter for hurricane-affected children and families. It is also working to meet the country’s emergency water and sanitation needs with water-purification tablets and hygiene kits. Ms. Comini said UNICEF would be raising more funds to carry out its work in these areas.

As Hurricane Felix approached the region, Guatemala and Belize were preparing for the storm’s arrival as well, with UNICEF offices in those countries gearing up to help affected communities as needed.

In areas particularly prone to flooding, evacuations were already taking place yesterday in Honduras, where some 18,000 people were relocated from their homes as a precaution. About half that number reportedly took refuge in shelters.

Tim Ledwith contributed to this story.


 

 

Audio

4 September 2007:
UNICEF Representative in Nicaragua Debora Comini updates UNICEF Radio on the first effects of Hurricane Felix in the northeast of the country
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