Tropical Storms hit El Salvador

El Salvador will not give up

By: Julieta Borja
Thursday, June 4, 2020

*Updates on Sister Parish communities below.

For the last three months, we have faced many difficulties in El Salvador.  We were first challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic that pushed our government to order a strict quarantine that has been extended again and again as COVID-19 cases increase.  We have now been observing strict quarantine measures for 3 months. We comply with social distancing and sanitation measures as much as possible.

The rainy season started in May in this difficult context.  Now on top of the pandemic that has only exacerbated preexisting inequalities in the country, we are also facing natural disasters. While the three powers of the state of El Salvador fight to dispute power, people all over the country are facing one of the worst crises in history.

Guarjila collects supplies and food for families affected by the storm.

The weekend of May 30-31, Tropical Storm Amanda caused extensive flooding, landslides, and damage to infrastructure in El Salvador, killing at least 27 people and leaving 10 missing. Entire families died when they were pulled into the rapidly rising river. Many other families were displaced from their communities due to the high risk of flooding and landslides.  In the middle pandemic, resettling people and placing them in shelters carries additional health risks.

As of today, we are expecting more damages to come with Tropical Storm Cristobal, now threatening our people. El Salvador’s territory is so small – the whole country is in chaos right now.  The health system is doing everything possible to save people’s lives, even when sometimes emergency rooms are not enough.

The government and local authorities are not responding adequately to address the emergency.  Instead, some are taking advantage of the situation and the suffering of the people. Some politicians are going to affected areas to hand out bags of food and take pictures to post on social media.  But the population sees this more as a publicity stunt.

The Salvadoran people know we can overcome these disasters, as we have overcome other crises in the past.  People are not waiting for government aid. They organized themselves in the communities to support those in need, an example of love and solidarity to the world, once again.  Our dear Sister Parish committees in Chalatenango and La Libertad have done just that. Community members and committees have gathered food, clothing, hygiene supplies, medicine to distribute with their own vehicles.

Guarjila sorts through clothing donations for affected families.

No storms, no pandemic, no broken government will stop us.  Nothing will break the Salvadoran people’s hearts. We will overcome this by  helping each other and  sharing what little we have with our brothers and sisters that need it now.

Do you want to join us and help? Please do, we will be very thankful forever.

You can donate to our emergency aid fundraiser that will support Sister Parish communities in El Salvador and Guatemala affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The aid projects will be decided by the communities in Central America, depending on their needs.

El Salvador will not give up!

Distributing aid in Guarjila.

Updates from Sister Parish communities

San José la Montaña – People in the community are doing okay. No families were hurt in the storms and there were no damages to houses or infrastructure in the community. The tropical storms did cause landslides on the road from Las Vueltas to San Jose La Montaña. This left the community without access to the town or communication for a couple of days. People continue to observe the recommended sanitation measures and quarantine to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Guarjila – On May 26 there was a very strong storm, even before Tropical Storm Amanda, that affected Chalatenango. The storm damaged houses, community buildings, and forested areas of Guarjila.  Many trees fell down due to the strong wind and some trees fell on top of houses. Tropical Storms Amanda and Cristobal did not cause major damages in the area, but some houses started leaking. No one was hurt, thanks to God. The Guarjila Sister Parish Committee and community board (Directiva) have organized to bring food and necessary clothing and supplies to people that have been affected by the storms. They also continue observing the sanitation measures and quarantine to slow the spread of COVID-19.

San Antonio Los Ranchos – There has not been major damage to infrastructure in the community due to the storms, but some crops were damaged/lost because the soil is too damp. The community continues to  observe quarantine the best they can, also maintaining the sanitation measures recommended nationally and locally by the mayor’s office.

Potrerillos – The Río Lempa flooded some of the lower roads in Potrerillos’ municipality, Nombre de Jesús.  So far, no one has been hurt and there has been no other infrastructure damage reported in Potrerillos. They are working with the mayor’s office in Nombre de Jesús to coordinate all of the public health measures to protect the community from COVID-19.  So far, there are no reported COVID-19 cases in the immediate area.  People continue to observe the quarantine. Some people are stressed about it, but they know that this is necessary for their own health.

ACOMUJERZA in Zaragoza – The tropical storms caused numerous landslides in Zaragoza.  Both the main highway that connects the city with the capital and the highway that connects the city with the port La Libertad were shut down due to the landslides, leaving Zaragoza without access to transportation for a few days.  A nearby river overflowed, washing away houses in different communities. There have been two deaths, one caused by the mudslide and the other by the flooding of the Chilama River. There are two people still missing. Emergency shelters have been set up for the families who lost their houses or live in high-risk areas close to the riverbank. The storms have subsided for now, so the community is organizing to bring support and relief to the affected families.

As part of an urban community, the story is different here in terms of  how people are experiencing the quarantine. ACOMUJERZA  members are doing well. The cooperative has been closed since February, but employees were working two days a week to keep the business going. In mid-April, the cooperative stopped all operations to observe a more strict quarantine after the first 4 cases of COVID-19  were announced in Zaragoza. Currently there are 7 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Zaragoza and 1 person has passed away as a result of COVID-19.

More information on Tropical Storm Amanda

From Cristosal, as of June 5, 2020 – https://www.cristosal.org/

The toll in El Salvador from Tropical Storms Amanda and Cristóbal includes

  • at least 27 dead, 10 missing
  • roughly 30,000 families affected
  • flooded/broken roads, landslides, floods, destroyed/damaged homes
  • 154 mudslides from Amanda alone, 83 of which were severe and caused complete obstruction in those areas
  • 50 pumping stations for potable water were damaged in the first (worst) day of the storm, 15 of those located in San Salvador

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