San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ortega Says Heavy Rains Reminiscent of Mitch

The government of Daniel Ortega is facing its second major natural disaster in two months, following a week of heavy rains caused by a low-pressure system that required the government to evacuate more than 6,000 people in the northern region of the country and declare a state of alert throughout most departments.

At press time, some 10,000 people in more than 100 communities had been affected by the rains, which also reportedly damaged some 790 homes, five bridges and more than 220 kilometers of roadway in the departments of Chinandega, León, Estelí, Managua, Granada and Matagalpa. Hit hardest was the northwestern department of Chinandega, where some 1,200 people were relocated to temporary shelters in churches and schoolhouses.

With another tropical storm approaching the Caribbean coast on Tuesday, a state of elevated alert was put in effect for most of the country.

The heavy rains also pounded neighboring countries in Central America, leaving at least 19 dead – including 14 in a mudslide in Costa Rica – and forcing some 8,600 people to evacuate. To the north, some 850 people were evacuated in El Salvador and in Honduras more than 8,000 were evacuated and at least five killed, bringing to 11 the number of Hondurans who have drowned in heavy rains in the past two months, according to government authorities.

President Daniel Ortega and his National Emergency Commission traveled to Chinandega Oct. 13 to analyze the situation and express concern about the possibility of mudslides. Chinandega was one of the areas hit hardest by the 1998 Hurricane Mitch, which caused a massive landslide down the side of Casitas Volcano, killing some 2,000.

Ortega noted that if the current rains continue for 10 days, the situation could be on par with Mitch, “because the soil is already saturated.”

“Confronting this situation, where there is no indication that the rains will stop, we have to continue taking all corresponding measures in accordance with the (different levels of) alert,” Ortega said. “Above all, it is important to remain calm.”

Ortega stressed that the government is doing everything it can to prevent further disaster, and called on all citizens to cooperate with government and military officials in the coming days.

The President acknowledged that the damage to crops and infrastructure could be great, but called on journalists to act responsibly and not to create panic with preliminary damage reports.


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