Friday, June 4, 2010

Storm Relief Resources for People In Guatemala

[image of sinkhole is from here]

A series of natural and infrastructural disasters--never unrelated to Western globalisation and the draining of resources--natural and human--for the Rich White West, are impacting many people in Guatemala. Pacano Volcano has erupted and then Tropical Storm Agatha came through. Rains and possible water pipe problems have resulted in a giant and horrifying sinkhole, which indicates ground instability and personal insecurity for everyone in the area. (I mean, if you are not living in Guatemala and are reading this, can you imagine this opening up suddenly near you?) Relief efforts are needed, and some basics for living are needed immediately.

Next up is a cross post from my friend at The Feminist Texican, Melissa. Thank you so much, Melissa, for compiling this list. <3 Julian

What follows next is from here.

Here’s a list of organizations with direct connections to Guatemala.  I also wanted to point out that Mayan Families (linked below) is an organization that helps indigenous Mayan families. You can make a general monetary donation, or if you scroll down their donations page, you can donate money for specific items.

Right now, they say money for food, sweaters for girls and boys, underwear and socks for girls and boys, and shoes of all sizes (but nothing over size 8 ) are most urgently needed.

via Link for Health (which seems to have the most updated info regarding relief efforts):

In all cases, it is best to donate to an organization’s non-restricted/general fund.  They will know how best to channel the funds.  Click on the group’s name, to access their donations page.  All of these organizations can provide a tax-receipt for US donors.

As Green As It Gets:  Is channeling help and funds directly to help their farmers in and around San Miguel Escobar.

Common Hope (Familias de Esperanza):  Is currently supporting the relief efforts east of La Antigua.  They are using funds to provide essentials (diapers, food, water, etc.) to those who have lost their homes.

ConstruCasa:  Home building NGO – will be working in the mountains around La Antigua, to aid those who have lost their homes.

Finding Freedom:  An American NGO that is wiring funds to first line relief personnel.   This includes Hugo Suarez’ relief efforts.

Mayan Families:  Family support charity in the Lake Atitlan region.  They will be directly aiding families displaced by this storm.  Many of these families were also displaced by Hurricane Stan in 2005, and Mayan Families was there for them then, too.

Rotary Clubs of Guatemala:  The Rotary Clubs in Guatemala are all hard at work providing first-line disaster relief.  To support their efforts, please follow the link to the Rotary page of the Ft. Collins, Colorado chapter.  The Ft. Collins club has strong relationships with chapters all over Guatemala, and will channel the funds to the areas with the most need.

Wuqú Kawoq:  Health care providers, who provide culturally sensitive care to indigenous individuals, using their native dialect.  As I type, this group is en route to the Lake Atitlan area to provide immediate care.  This group also plans to be manufacturing water filters in Lake Atitlan within the next two weeks.

*           *           *

What follows next is from here, from The Miami Herald.

Tropical Storm Agatha leaves trail of destruction in Guatemala

Tropical Storm Agatha has left more than 179 people dead, and the damage toll nationwide was extensive.

Special to The Miami Herald

Guatemalans flocked to relief shelters Tuesday after Tropical Storm Agatha swept away roads and bridges, opened up a massive sinkhole in the capital and left thousands homeless.
The first major storm of the hurricane season left at least 179 dead across Central America as record rainfall wreaked havoc on mountainous regions. It came days after the eruption of the Pacaya Volcano, which displaced thousands in Guatemala.

"We're better off here than in our homes," said Victor Arellano as he huddled with his family in a makeshift shelter outside the village of Calderas, just south of Guatemala's capital. "The rocks have left huge holes in the roof, and we fear for our lives when the volcano rumbles again. We have no place to go."

The government, which has struggled to cope with the expanding disaster, has quickly become overwhelmed, residents say.

"There are emergencies everywhere in the capital,'' said Mayra Escobar as she swept a layer of thick, black sand from her doorstep in downtown Guatemala City. ``We haven't received help from the government, but we're doing our best to help each other. We're waiting for help."

The damage toll nationwide was extensive. Many in remote communities throughout the western part of the country were cut off from aid and relief supplies. Officials and aid workers were still assessing the situation in those areas and planning their response.

"Everyone is meeting and gathering information at this point, trying to figure out what has happened. The reports are slowly coming in," said Anne Bousquet, a representative for Catholic Relief Services.

"We're trying to figure out what people know and coordinate a response, but it's difficult because the hardest hit areas are the least accessible."

U.S. Southern Command said Tuesday that it had deployed four helicopters to Guatemala from the Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras. The aircraft will conduct aerial assessments and transport emergency relief supplies to areas impacted by the disaster, military officials said from Southcom's headquarters in Miami.

On Monday, President Alvaro Colom announced that Guatemala had asked the World Bank for an $85 million loan to address the storm and damage from Thursday's volcano eruption.

The eruption left several inches of volcanic sand covering much of the city, and forced the closure of the country's largest airport. The airport remained out of service Tuesday as workers scrambled to clear the runway, while Pacaya continued to spew ash.

Agatha's rains hit soon after the volcano eruption, washing much of the sand into already overtaxed drainage systems, clogging sewers and exacerbating flooding in much of the city.

"The problem is that when this ash is mixed with water, it turns into paste which dries into a cement-like substance," said Mario Gómez, a spokesman for the city. "It's very difficult to clean up, and it has gotten into the drainage and sewers of much of the city at this point."

Officials blame the combination of water and ash for creating the almost perfectly round sinkhole, which swallowed part of a city block in downtown Guatemala City. The gaping hole measures approximately 60 feet wide and plunges more than 100 feet, although experts said it might grow larger in coming days.

The sinkhole consumed the intersection of two downtown streets and a three-story building in a mixed-use commercial and residential area. The building housed a sewing factory, which is believed to have been virtually empty Saturday when it crashed into the hole. Authorities have reported no deaths related to the sinkhole although a couple residents are reportedly missing.

"It's not just the storm that causes this," said government worker Carlos Hernández, who was manning a sonar-imaging machine as a team searched for other potential faults in the ground nearby. "It's broken tubes, improperly routed sewers and these things that wash away the foundation of the urban area. Then along comes the storm, and this is what results."

The rains caused additional problems for residents of towns close to the volcano, who had been forced to flee their homes Thursday and Friday, after burning rocks, some measuring a foot across, rained down on communities near the volcano.

Some 115,000 people nationwide were displaced by the combined effects of the volcano and storm. About half of those people are in temporary shelters. The death toll had risen to 152 in Guatemala by late Tuesday, with dozens more killed in neighboring El Salvador and Honduras. But washed-out bridges and roads meant the exact count would probably not be known for some time.

"Getting detailed information is proving difficult," said Bousquet. "The number of deaths could be a lot higher. We haven't been able to access the areas that are cut off, to reach the people who are more needy."

With roads washed out, officials were organizing supply drops by helicopter in some remote areas where food and water were already in short supply.

The Ministry of Health warned that stagnating water could lead to outbreaks of dengue and malaria. But officials and aid workers were also worried about long-term damage to crops and residences in remote, highly impoverished rural areas. Agatha is feared to have wiped out significant amounts of the corn and beans planted by subsistence farmers in several regions.

"There are the immediate needs," Bousquet said, "and there is the longer term strategy on housing for many who don't have homes to go back to. We also have to look beyond the immediate and figure out how to reestablish those livelihoods that have been lost."


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