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Showing posts from October, 2011

Funes reports on damage totals from Deluge of 2011

The office of El Salvador's president Mauricio Funes released estimated damage figures from the recent rains as described in a report in El Faro.  The cumulative damage estimates include:

$840 million in total lossesAffecting one out of every 20 SalvadoransMost affected sector was agriculture with losses of $300 million$261 million in infrastructure damages$208 million in damage to houses, schools, and health centersEconomic growth for 2011 will only be 1.4% rather than 2.1% (already the lowest in Latin America).
These reports do not include the losses of individual households which had their possessions destroyed or have been unable to work.

The president's office reported that its internal polling shows that 84% of Salvadorans approve of the way the government had handled the crisis.   Funes also took credit for reducing the overall level of loss of life by strengthening the government's ability to respond, including strengthening the Civil Protection ministry which had o…

Urgent water issues

The availability of healthy water continues to be a serious challenge for El Salvador, and the Deluge of 2011 has only made it worse.   According to a story in La Prensa Grafica, the Ministry of Health reports that  10,186 wells were destroyed or contaminated by the flooding.   In addition, some 28,862 latrines were damaged in the flooding.   These damages to the water and sanitation infrastructure of the country create additional risks for disease.

Meanwhile, El Salvador's legislators have failed to take up a bill which would protect the country's water resources for the benefit of all its citizens.   An article from IPS describes the inaction: A bill for protection, recovery and use of water resources in El Salvador, drafted by a platform of about 100 social, religious and academic organisations, has been bogged down in parliament for the past five years in spite of the country's water crisis.

"Debate in Congress has been delayed due to lack of political will,"…

Bill Clinton on the Deluge of 2011

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Former US President Bill Clinton issues a call for aid to the countries in Central America suffering the effects of the Deluge of 2011 in this video.

How can I help?

El Salvador needs short term and long term aid to care for all the people affected by the Deluge of 2011 and to  produce a safer and more sustainable environment into the future.  Not surprisingly, I have received many inquiries about where people can give.

As you may have deduced from the address for this blog, my religious affiliation is Lutheran.  One good way to give money for disaster relief in El Salvador and the rest of Central America is the ELCA Disaster Response.   ELCA Disaster Response is very efficient, and guarantees that 100% of funds designated for a particular disaster will be spent with that disaster and not used elsewhere in the organization.   You can donate at this link.

In addition, here is a list of organizations working in El Salvador where I have good knowledge of their work and who would be worthy recipients of your donations.
SHAREEcoVivaUS-El Salvador Sister CitiesVoices on the BorderCISColectivo CeibaCRISPAZPrograma Velasco
Note that I have only listed US b…

News coverage (finally) of the floods

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Over the past several few days there have finally started to appear more complete news stories in the English language press related to the Deluge of 2011.   The coverage may be related to an emergency appeal by the United Nations to raise disaster relief funds for El Salvador.  The UN's assessment of the situation is to the point:
25 October 2011 –
United Nations aid agencies are ramping up their efforts to provide shelter, food and health care to El Salvador, which is facing one of the greatest disasters in its history as heavy rains continue to cause severe flooding across Central America.  The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that 56,000 people have been displaced and many are in need of water, food and sanitation. The agency also said there has been an increase in reported cases of flood-related illnesses such as diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, chicken pox, and dengue fever.  During a press briefing in Geneva, OCHA spokesperson Elisabeth…

The human role in the Deluge of 2011

The floods of this month in El Salvador were extraordinary.   But when we look at the consequences of the floods, it is clear that calling this a "natural" disaster excuses too easily the role of humankind in contributing to the tragedy.  There are several places where the actions or inactions of human beings had a role:


Global climate change.   Weather scientists asked about the flooding rains of October opined that the rains were an example of the more extreme and variable weather events produced by global climate change.   The charts I have posted in this blog showing rain totals of other weather events in El Salvador certainly seem to show that the past decade has been significantly worse than the preceding 40 years.  The carbon emissions of an industrialized world have created an imbalance producing life threatening weather events in ever-increasing frequency.

Structural poverty.   In the pictures from the flooding in El Salvador and the rest of Central America, you do n…

The relief efforts for the Deluge of 2011

As the floodwaters recede, this post focuses on the relief effort. The government is still warning, however, about the ongoing possibility of landslides from the super-saturated soils on mountainsides which it describes as a "moderate probability" in many areas throughout the country.

International aid is arriving. There has been a shipment of medicines from Venezuela.   Brazil delivered 1000 tons of rice and beans, and another $100,000 donation for the purchase of foodstuffs. Spain provided 109 tons of food. A shipment of aid for Salvadoran families valued at $181,000 from the US government arrived by plane today. The US Embassy lists aid worth almost $250,000 delivered previously on its website. Other countries providing assistance include Chile, Germany, Mexico and Taiwan. The Salvadoran government is receiving funds from a $50 million loan from the InterAmerican Development Bank and has designated $22 million of repair of bridges and roads washed away by the …

The Maras of El Salvador

Journalist Alma Guillermoprieto begins her new essay in the New York Review of Books with the line "I’m back in El Salvador for the first time in thirty years, and I don’t recognize a thing."    Thirty years ago, Guillermoprieto was one of two US journalists who broke the story of the massacre which had happened at El Mozote, in Morazan province.   


Today she is writing about a new type of violence afflicting El Salvador.  Her piece titled In the New Gangland of El Salvador explores the phenomenon of gangs in El Salvador with conversations in the poor neighborhoods where the gangs are flourishing and interviews of gang members in prison.


She writes:
It would be easy to lay the blame for this social and economic disaster exclusively at the feet of the party founded by Roberto D’Aubuisson—the Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA, by its Spanish initials—which governed the country with evident if not single-minded interest in the well-being of the wealthy for twenty years af…

Al Jazeera covers the floods

As far as I can tell, Al Jazeera English has provided the only English language broadcast news coverage of the flooding in El Salvador. (The network has a history of good reporting from El Salvador). Here is the Al Jazeera video report on the Deluge of 2011:

A UN official estimated that the damages from October's floods in El Salvador could top $1 billion.

Health impacts of the widespread floods

The floodwaters are starting to recede in parts of El Salvador and the rain has stopped.   Public health concerns throughout the flooded areas are of immediate importance.   People have been crowded into shelters, flood waters have contaminated wells, and contact with the dirty water can cause disease.  Only diligent attention to providing clean water and sanitation will prevent outbreaks of illness.

Attention is being paid by a number of organizations.  Here is today's report of the Pan American Health Organization:
El Salvador.  The rains have opened dam reserves and blocked roads affecting 181 out of 262 municipalities of El Salvador. 2,000 square kilometers are now flooded which is equivalent to 10% of the entire national territory.  Health Impacts.  Currently there 250,000 people affected and 38,682 persons displaced to 603 shelters located mostly in the departments of La Libert…

Deluge of 2011 through eyes of a child

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Photo - El Faro
The sun started to come out today, and I'm not going to write much about the flooding in El Salvador. Instead, I'm going to encourage you to go view the photogallery from El Faro at this link. The gallery contains photos of children now living in a shelter who painted pictures of their experience.  Their pictures are worth more than a thousand of my words.

The flooding of the Lower Lempa region

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The Lempa River is the longest river in El Salvador.   Winding through much of the country, it drains a large region.   Rivers in Guatemala and Honduras also flow into the Lempa.  A series of dams on the river provide hydro-electric power to the country.   As the river flows down towards the Pacific Ocean, it spreads into a broad flood plain known as the Bajo Lempa or Lower Lempa region of El Salvador.


Map of the Lower Lempa region (click to enlarge)

Because the Lempa River collects water from this broad area, the flooding from the Deluge of 2011 has been particularly severe there.  EcoViva, an NGO which partners with community organizations in the Lower Lempa region, described some of the impacts on its blog:

JIQUILISCO, El Salvador— A tropical depression in the Pacific, coupled with a weather front stemming from Hurricane Jova in the Atlantic, converged on El Salvador this weekend to cause what appears to be the largest disaster in a generation. Earthen levees along the Lempa River …

Deluge of 2011 -- Day 10

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Ten days of rain have produced dramatic rain totals throughout the country as this chart from El Salvador's weather service, the SNET, shows.   The most rain has fallen at Huizucar in the south central part of the country, where an amazing 1470 millimeters (57.9 inches) of rain has fallen.   In a sizable area (orange and yellow on the map), more than a meter of rain has fallen.

The rain was still falling today, with  20-70mm of rain falling in locations in the central volcanic chain in the country.  In Puerto Parada, in the western part of the country, officials continued to evacuate inhabitants as the Rio Grande de San Miguel was rising after having already breached its levee in two places.  Rio Paz in Ahuachapan was also overflowing its banks again.

On Thursday, however, the entry of a cold front is supposed to mark the end of the rains in most of the country.  Next Monday, schools will reopen for the first time since the emergency was declared except for those schools being u…

Deluge of 2011 -- International aid coming to El Salvador

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Source
The chart above shows the relative magnitude of the rains of the past 8 days in El Salvador compared to other weather disasters.   While it should be remembered that rainfall amounts are very localized, and that the highest totals occurred in only a very few spots, it is still clear that this has been a very extreme event.

At this link you can see a current radar map from weather.com which will play back the weather from the previous 36 hours.  You can also follow links from that page to see the current weather forecast.  Perhaps the most important forecast is the hydrological forecast from SNET which can be found here and which contains forecasted river levels and risks of flooding.  The forecast is in Spanish, but Google translate works pretty well with it for those who need an English translation.

International aid efforts are starting to help alleviate some of the needs in El Salvador.  Taiwan, Spain, the United States, Venezuela have all promised aid.  International human…

The deluge of 2011

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As of Monday night, October 17, the rains had not ceased in El Salvador (although things are a little better in the east of the country). The rainfall measured in some locations exceeded an extraordinary 1.2 meters over the past week, surpassing the rainfall total of Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Here are the latest statistics for El Salvador:

150,000 people have reportedly been affected in some way by the rains.  The official death toll has risen to 32.  More than 32,000 people have been evacuated from 149 communities.  Some 21,500 are living in 223 shelters across the country.  More than 18,400 houses have been damaged by floods and landslides.At least 576 landslides have been recorded10 bridges have collapsed.  See a collection of images of the floods here.

Schools continue to be suspended in much of the country until further notice.  A number of schools have been damaged by the flooding.

 El Salvador's National Assembly passed a resolution for three days of national mourning an…

Fr. Dean Brackley Presente!

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I received the sad news this afternoon, that a dear friend, Father Dean Brackley, a Jesuit priest and teacher at the University of Central America in San Salvador passed away after a months long struggle with cancer.  A month ago, Fr. Dean was awarded an honorary doctorate from Marquette University.  Here was the presentation from the award of that degree:

Rev. Dean Brackley, S.J., is a professor of theology at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, and in 2010 he held the Rev. Francis C. Wade, S.J., Chair at Marquette University. Father Brackley entered the Society of Jesus in 1964 and was ordained a priest in 1976. He earned a doctoral degree in Religious Social Ethics from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1980, and has traveled a vocational path marked by spiritual creativity, moral courage, and an unfailing companionship with the poor.  Father Brackley’s early life in ministry was spent as a community organizer on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in…

Weather map for El Salvador

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The current weather map at this link shows the weather systems which have been affecting El Salvador and also includes weather forecasts for the coming days.

The following map shows rain totals across the country on Saturday through Sunday morning:



Blog Action Day -- The Rains and Food

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October 16 is the annual Blog Action Day, and the global topic this year is Food.   In light of the weather emergency continuing in El Salvador, I will deal with the implications of the ongoing rains on food issues in the country.

The country is under a state of emergency.   In a press conference Saturday night, president Funes called for all elements of Salvadoran society to pull together.   As of tonight some 13 thousand Salvadorans have been forced to flee their homes, and the death toll has risen to 10.

 Emergency efforts to distribute food are underway for families forced from their homes.  Donations are being received from many sources, and the Salvadoran armed forces are participating in distribution of emergency aid.

  This picture from LPG shows Scouts receiving and organizing food donations.

LPG picture gallery.
A tweet from LaPrensa reported that some 4000 pupusas are being made and donated by an association of pupuserias in Olocuilta to distribute to affected families.

More discoveries at Joya de Cerén archaeological site

Archaeologists working at Joya de Cerén in El Salvador have uncovered an ancient road in that Mayan village. An article in Science Daily describes the discovery:
A University of Colorado Boulder-led team excavating a Maya village in El Salvador buried by a volcanic eruption 1,400 years ago has unexpectedly hit an ancient white road that appears to lead to and from the town, which was frozen in time by a blanket of ash. The road, known as a "sacbe," is roughly 6 feet across and is made from white volcanic ash from a previous eruption that was packed down and shored up along its edges by residents living there in roughly A.D. 600, said CU-Boulder Professor Payson Sheets, who discovered the buried village known as Ceren near the city of San Salvador in 1978. In Yucatan Maya, the word "sacbe" (SOCK'-bay) literally means "white way" or "white road" and is used to describe elevated ancient roads typically lined with stone and paved with white…

Update on damage from rains

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The rains which started on October 10 have not yet ceased.  President Mauricio Funes has declared a state of emergency (video) throughout the country due to the rains' impact.  The saturated soil can hold no more of the rain which falls, producing floods and mudslides in at-risk areas.   The death toll has climbed to six.    La Prensa Grafica reported today that 15,000 families have been affected in some way by the rains, 6548 persons are currently in 92 shelters across the country.  Rivers have overflowed their banks in 47 locations, and there have been 384 mudslides.  Schools remain closed.

The rains in El Salvador are part of a tropical depression bringing tragedy across Central America as the Boston Globe reports:
Heavy rains generated by a low-pressure system hammered Central America for a third day Friday, putting officials on alert in countries where mudslides and swollen rivers have already killed 36 people. At least 21 people have been killed in Guatemala and thousands …

Rains pound El Salvador causing flooding and landslides

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Heavy rains, caused by a tropical depression off the Pacific coast have caused flooding and landslides in various parts of El Salvador.   School has been suspended in 8 of the country's 14 departments.    The weather system has left 18 people dead across Central America, including two women in El Salvador who died in separate landslides.

Certain towns in the department of Ahuachapan in the west are under a red alert for flooding, while much of the coastal region is under an orange alert and much of the rest of the country under a yellow alert.  The rains could continue for another 36 hours.

According to La Prensa Grafica, as of 10 a.m. this morning, there are approximately 1800 displaced people in shelters, 10 rivers have overflowed their banks, and there were 26 reported landslides.

You can see current weather radar images from El Salvador's national weather agency here.   La Prensa has a map with rainfall totals here and a gallery of images from the flooding here.

Millennium Compact -- 4 year anniversary

At the end of September 2011, the Millennium Challenge Account project in El Salvador celebrated its fourth anniversary and its achievements to date.  The Millennium Challenge is a US foreign aid program aimed at combating poverty in the countries which receive the funds.

An article in DiarioCoLatino has the comments of José Ángel Quirós, executive director of FOMILENIO, the Salvadoran government agency charged with administering the programs in the country.    The program has a goal of alleviating the poverty of more than 150 thousand Salvadorans and improving the quality of life of 850 thousand inhabitants of the northern zone of the country.  According to Quirós, after 4 years FOMILENIO  had been able to provide training to more than 8500 persons, awarded 3000 scholarships and constructed 20 educational institutions, and created at least 9000 direct jobs.

At the anniversary event, Alex Segovia, Technical Secretary to the Salvadoran president, asserted that when the Funes administ…

Remittances and household finance

A recent article in La Prensa Grafica explores the importance of remittances, the money sent from relatives living and working abroad, in supporting Salvadoran families. The article pulls data from the recent 2010 multi-purpose poll of households conducted by the Salvadoran government.

Some of the statistics:   More than 337,000 families in El Salvador receive remittances, equalling 21% of the households in the country.
 91.6% of the families direct their remittances towards consumption, while only 1.4% say they save some or all of what they receive from abroad.
Remittances constitute 17% of the national economy, one of the highest levels in Latin America.
Remittances have reduced levels of poverty in El Salvador. 70% of of the households which receive remittances are not in poverty.
Most households receive between $46 and $113 per month in remittances.
More than 90% of Salvadorans have a relative living in the US. Remittances sent into El Salvador have totaled $2.422 billion through t…

CDA issues report on El Salvador.

The Center for Democracy in the Americas published a report on El Salvador on Friday, September 30.   This update focuses primarily on the judicial system and crime and security issues.  It's a useful summary of current developments in those areas.  Get it here|.

The killer of Oscar Romero identified

It has been a mystery for more than 30 years.   Who pulled the trigger of the sharpshooter's rifle which murdered Oscar Romero?   Citing sources close to the plot, a Salvadoran newspaper has now identified the killer.  From the Super Martyrio blog:
If a martyr is killed, does the killer’s actual identity matter for the purpose of raising the martyr to the honor of the altars? It matters in the case of Óscar Romero, according to Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez, a Salvadoran cleric familiar with Archbishop Romero’s beatification process. “When we were starting the process,” Bishop Rosa says, the Vatican “asked us three questions: who killed him, why, and the context in which he served as Archbishop of San Salvador.” He adds, “Who killed him was the only question we were unable to answer,” at the time. (G. Fajardo and F. Valencia, Msgr. Rosa Chávez asks Romero shooter to contribute to the truth, CO LATINO, September 17, 2011—in Spanish.)  New information published in El Salvador in the l…