|First Hurricane Eta, then Iota, washed out entire roads across Guatemala. The main route through San Juan Chamelco, a community near Coban east of Cotzal, is utterly collapsed.
|Food aid was delivered to families
in Villa Hortensia II, one of
the hardest hit communities.
|Landslides across Guatemala's mountainous terrain have blocked off roads,
complicating food aid deliveries. This photo is from a road near Vichivala, in Cotzal.
(November 10 update)
In the first few days of November, Hurricane Eta struck Guatemala. Eta is the second-most intense November hurricane on record and unleashed torrential rains and catastrophic flooding across Central America. In Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica, high winds and heavy rain damaged homes and forced thousands to take cover in shelters.
Fatalities in Guatemala rose sharply on Thursday November 6 as a result of severe mudslides in the mountains. As of Saturday Nov 8, the death toll is estimated between 125 - 150 with the greatest losses in the central mountainous region of Alta Verapaz.
President Alejandro Giammattei declared a state of emergency in nearly half of the country’s 22 departments and swiftly mobilized the military and emergency services to engage in rescue efforts. Rescue workers have braved treacherous roads buried in mud and rubble to reach affected remote communities. The unrelenting downpours released by Storm Eta toppled trees, engorged swift-moving rivers, and ripped down parts of a mountainside above the village of Queja in Alta Verapaz, burying dozens of people in their homes. Many are still missing. Rescuers continue to dig through the mud and rubble, searching for survivors.
Thankfully, about 3,000 people did manage to flee Quejá on foot during the storm to take shelter in the neighbouring village of Santa Elena.
Food for the Hungry (FH) Guatemala partner communities have been affected by the force of Hurricane Eta. Out of the three regions where FH Guatemala works, Alta Verapaz was hit the hardest. The FH Programs Coordinator for Alta Verapaz was forced to evacuate his home and other FH staff have lost their homes to flooding. Most of those affected are currently without internet access, making communication difficult.
Many families who fled the hurricane are now in make-shift shelters such as schools, churches, and town halls. In addition to seeing their homes and belongings destroyed, families have also lost gardens and livestock―their primary sources of income and food. FH is grateful, however, to report no known loss of life in any community where FH Canada partners―thankfully, all sponsor children are accounted for.
FH Guatemala is working with mayors and community leaders to coordinate relief efforts. Survivors desperately need food and basic necessities. Supported by FH’s Relief and Humanitarian Affairs (RHA), FH Guatemala staff are sourcing and distributing food hampers, bottled drinking water, hygiene kits, and basic PPE to enable families to protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19 in the close quarters of the improvised shelters.
FH continues to search for ways to reach those communities cut off by collapsed bridges, flooding, and mudslides as they are now only accessible by boat, plane, or helicopter. In the meantime, FH has transferred funds to the currently inaccessible regions of Ixil and Alta Verapaz to enable staff on the ground to purchase and distribute life-saving goods to vulnerable families and support the FH staff responding to the crisis.
To help families struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Eta, you can donate to the FH's emergency fund.
Scroll down to see a status update on each FH Canada partner community in Guatemala.