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Guatemala: Heavy Rains and Flooding Affecting the Poorest Communities

Peten Flood

Foto by Mesas de Diálogo.

The past month has been very difficult for many Guatemalans. During tropical storms, heavy rains and flooding, a lack of public policies aimed at preventing tragedies resulted in even more damage, as agricultural crops have been ruined, houses completely destroyed and people have even been buried alive because of landslides.

Floods and storms affect many communities, but the impact is higher in communities below the poverty line. These communities are often isolated from services or shelters, like the small villages in Peten, Quiché and Zacapa. El Poptuneco [es] reported that President Álvaro Colom flew on a helicopter to Porptun, one of the affected areas. Also, the Governor, Rudel Alvarez, on his personal blog , reported on the situation and regularly updated the weather conditions stating that it was the worst tragedy in ten years in Sayaxche , another village in Southern Peten where 288 families in extreme poverty were affected by the rains and floods.

Mesas de Dialogo blog [es] told a real life story of the crisis:

Realizaron un sobrevuelo el día 21-10-08 por el área rural encontrándose una señora la cual desde las alturas pudieron observar que imploraba ayuda entre las inundaciones baja el helicóptero pocos segundos y ella dijo que tenía 4 días de no comer juntamente con sus hijos, perdieron su casa y sus cultivos.

They flew over the affected area on 10-21-08, and they saw a woman from a distance, so the helicopter landed. The woman said that her family had been without food for four days, and that they lost thier home and their crops.

The community was inaccessible by vehicle, so the only way to help them was via air.

Citizen Journalism blog El Zacapaneco [es] reported on the damaged infrastructure in Zacapa (Eastern Guatemala), saying that La Union, a village, suffered once again because of land slides that blocked the main highway.

But solidarity is always present, as El Portal de Peten reported , Rainforest Alliance has already expressed their solidarity. Cuban Doctors are helping people in the most affected areas, as reported by the Municipal News Blog [es] . Caritas de Guatemala made a call for medicine, clothes and food and they can be contacted here .

It is sad to read that every year such tragedies happen, and some regions are always affected. At the same time, no public policies or measures are taken to avoid the damages. The cost is so high: human lives, homes, and harvests are all washed away with the floods, as you can see in the pictures of Arturo Godoy.

6 comments

  • Sally Then

    “At the same time, no public policies or measures are taken to avoid the damages.”

    Exactly! The poor in Guatemala experience their own Katrina / New Orleans every year.

  • Great post. It’s really sad that these kind of tragedies could have been avoided or at least the damages could have been minimized if a correct public policy would have been implemented. Sometimes governments just worry on actions that make them look good but forget about this kind of tragedies. I hope everything turns out good for these communities. Is important that everybody helps in any way possible.

  • Thank you so much for your comments. Now the Congress authorized a large amount of money to mitigate the damages, but again, next year will be the same story. The Rainforest burning in Summer and rivers out of control during the rainy season…

  • Exelent post Renata!

    Es imprescindible que el Gobierno Central en este momento preciso reoriente los fondos que entran de la cooperacion internacional, de modo que estos se destinen para las familias damnificadas y humedecidas por la lluvia.

    Asi mismo es necesario que la sociedad civil se organice para colaborar en abastecimiento de necesidades primaria.

    El Gobierno ahora debe de reestablecer sus prioridades. Y lo primero es lo primero: primero la gente.

  • […] is a video that shows how bad and how much damage was done by a storm in Guatemala. Here is the post that I got my information […]

  • […] which led to the declaration of a national emergency. Guatemala also was affected by heavy rains leaving the rural and poorest parts of the country especially vulnerable. Landslides and floods in Brazil's southern state of Santa Catarina left more than 80 dead and […]

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