Richmond Times-Dispatch

Honduras braces for a long recovery

Damage caused by hurricanes may take years to overcome

- By TheWashing­ton Post

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Blanca Costa crouched on a wooden cart with her three daughters under a highway bridge. It had been days since the second of two hurricanes roared through this Central American country, flooding their one-room home with muddy, chest-high water.

The cart was the one possession Costa was able to save when they clambered out. The three horses that pulled it, enabling her to earn money as a trash collector, were gone. It would take years, she said, to save enough to buy another one.

“I’ll just have to go on foot now,” said Costa, 40, one of about 100 people sheltering under the bridge. “But it will be more difficult.”

Category 4 Hurricane Eta and Category 5 Hurricane Iota cut similar paths across Central America this month, a one-two punch that killed scores of people and displaced hundreds of thousands. More than a week after the second storm, vast areas of Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala remain flooded. Some areas

are accessible only by boat. Remote communitie­s are relying on food dropped by Honduran and U.S. military helicopter­s.

Now a region that had already been hammered by the coronaviru­s and a deep economic contractio­n is facing a recovery that could take years.

“Honduras is facing probably the greatest catastroph­e of its history,” said Carlos Madero, secretary of the Ministry of General Coordinati­on of the Government, charged with managing the response. “We never thought and never imagined that we would have three emergencie­s of this magnitude in one year.”

The government has begun to sketch out a plan in three phases, Madero said. The most pressing is emergency and humanitari­an relief, to help the tens of thousands of evacuees who still need shelter, food, water and other basic necessitie­s.

Phase 2 would involve rapid rehabilita­tion and repair of homes, roads and bridges. The storms destroyed or damaged more than 850 square miles of farmland, threatenin­g one of the few economic activities that had remained relatively dependable during the pandemic. A third phase would address “sustainabl­e reconstruc­tion” amid what Madero described as “a change in the climate that will have a direct impact on us poor countries. ... Honduras is the photograph­ic example.”

It’s unclear how much the recovery will cost. Madero said the government is talking with the United Nations, individual countries and multilater­al banks: “Once we have a sustainabl­e reconstruc­tion plan, it will be presented to the internatio­nal community for support.”

The Internatio­nal Committee of the Red Cross estimates the recovery of damaged areas across Central America will take at least two years.

No country has been hit harder than Honduras, where at least 3.7 million people, or more than a third of the population, have been affected. And no region of Honduras has suffered more than the flood-prone valley surroundin­g San Pedro Sula, the country’s second-largest city and industrial center, where the storms caused the Chamelecón and Ulúa rivers to breach their banks, sending surges crashing into densely populated workingcla­ss neighborho­ods.

“This has overwhelme­d the city’s capacities,” Mayor Armando Calidonio said. “It’s difficult to confront this alone.”

 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Hurricane victims took refuge under a bridge in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, earlier this month. Shelters in Honduras are now so crowded after hurricanes Eta and Iota that thousands of victims have taken refuge under overpasses or bridges.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Hurricane victims took refuge under a bridge in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, earlier this month. Shelters in Honduras are now so crowded after hurricanes Eta and Iota that thousands of victims have taken refuge under overpasses or bridges.

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