El Salvador- Tropical storm Ida has left 189 people dead, 80 missing and 15,000 displaced. The damage is extensive, destroying thousands of homes and bridges. Fifty out of 262 municipalities have reported mud slides, according to relief worker Ronald Chavez. Entire towns and neighbourhoods need to be relocated to safe areas.
Chavez reports that the relief efforts thus far have focused on providing food, shelter and medical care. Efforts to begin the extensive repairs of the affected areas continue.
Salvadorans have responded generously, donating food, clothes and providing shelter to the people affected by the disaster. “Unions, student federations, FMLN local committees, churches, etc., quickly engaged in the rescue and emergency response,” stated Chavez.
El Salvador’s national assembly led by the newly elected socialist party– the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front)–declared a “state of national disaster and calamity”. The FMLN has directed $150 million towards the rescue and relief effort. Rebuilding permanent housing and recovering agricultural production will be long term challenges for the government, who had planned to start a new wave of social programs at the beginning of 2010 with limited resources.
Thousands of FMLN members from across the country have moved into the area to help clean schools, houses and infrastructure and to provide recreational activities for children and the elderly.
Chavez remarked on the organization and solidarity he has witnessed among the people, such as the 120 member Melida Anaya Montes Teachers Brigade who are cleaning damaged schools.
Aid has come in from Venezuela, Cuba, Spain, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Japan, the US and France. Cuba has sent doctors to help in the crisis.
Chavez asks that Canadians help in rebuilding efforts. “Canadians can help by sending their material and spiritual support to El Salvador, but also by putting more pressure on the Canadian government and other industrialized countries to accept at once all the damage that rich countries have done to mother earth and to our environment. We must fight for global ecological justice,” Chavez urged, connecting the increase in severity and frequency of tropical storms with the global climate crisis.
Alex Corey is a member of the NB Media Co-op.