Red Cross in Central America prepares for “Wilma”

Published: 20 October 2005 0:00 CET

Monica Planas and Allison Ali

Still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Stan, a number of countries in Central America including Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Cuba are bracing themselves for Hurricane Wilma, which could be the strongest hurricane for this year’s Atlantic Hurricane season.

Hurricane Wilma swelled into a dangerous Category Five Hurricane on Wednesday. Forecasters predict that the hurricane will present a “significant threat” to Florida, which is expected to be hit this weekend.

The Central American states of Honduras and Nicaragua have also issued alerts, and are expecting tropical storm conditions within the next 36 hours. The hurricane, which was classified as a tropical storm on Tuesday, is expected to dump inches of rain across the region.

In Jamaica, Wilma was blamed for one death after heavy rainfall flooded several low-lying communities, blocked roads and forced 100 people into shelters, according to local officials.

In an effort to reduce death and destruction, the Red Cross in Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica and Guatemala are busy making preparations to protect their citizens including those who were affected by Hurricane Stan two weeks ago. Stan left a trail of destruction in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Mexico.

Currently, the Red Cross is carrying out emergency operations in eight battered countries in Central America to assist more than 10,000 families affected by Hurricane Stan. This includes the operation in response to the Llamatepec volcano activity in El Salvador which aims to assist 21,000 people.

The Cuban Red Cross has issued an alert for the provinces of Matanzas westward through Pinar del Rio and for the Isle of Youth. Intense rainfalls in central and west provinces have been constant, and communities in those districts continue to be affected. There are have already been reports of landslides in east zones such as Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba.

960 Cuban Red Cross volunteers and personnel are already working in the affected areas and in shelters as well as carrying out evacuation operations in the flooded areas.

Dr Luis Foyo, Secretary General of the Cuban Red Cross said so far 9,074 people have been evacuated and 1,502 are already in official Red Cross shelters.

“There are thousands preparing for flooding and we are taking the necessary precautions.”

He noted that there is no means of communication in the areas of Santiago de Cuba, La Boca, El Laurel and San Mateos and so far 316 homes have been affected by the flooding and landslides.

The Mexican Red Cross has also issued an alert and are evacuating persons from the Yucatan Peninsula and Quintana Roo with special emphasis on Cozumel Island. It is anticipated that some of the communities affected by Hurricane Stan might experience flooding again.In Costa Rica, the Red Cross has identified “red alert zones” where constant rainfall has been recorded with the threat of possible flooding.

Mr Oscar Garcia, Community Health Co-ordinator of the Guatemala Red cross said people are already being evacuated to shelters. “Some of those people were also affected by Hurricane Stan. We don’t want to risk those people dying in Wilma.” He said, expressing concern for the many residents that lost their homes during Hurricane Stan and now have little or no shelter of their own.