Red Cross reaches isolated communities in El Salvador

Published: 17 January 2001

Assessments teams from the Salvadorean Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have reached isolated communities cut off since Saturday's devastating earthquake.

"When we finally reached Comasagua, it looked like a bomb had hit the village," said Xavier Castellanos, International Federation Information Delegate. More than 80% of the homes in the town of 15,000 inhabitants were damaged, but fears of thousands of people buried by mudslides were unfounded.

The short-term needs of the community are clear: clean water, food and materials such as plastic sheeting for temporary shelter. The Salvadorean Red Cross plans to return to Comasagua later today with these essential supplies, so that rebuilding can commence immediately. The Red Cross will carry out more thorough needs assessments over the coming weeks, in order to plan long-term rehabilitation for this devastated community.

In the department of  La Libertad as Red Cross teams reached Chuiltiupan they found 430 houses destroyed, 80% of the town's buildings. In the rural area surrounding the town, the damage was even more extensive: 90% of the homes (2,400 houses) destroyed. In Kajayague, destruction was just as extensive with 1,800 houses destroyed, 90% of the homes.

"With the focus shifting from rescue to recovery, thought must now be given to rebuilding the homes and lives of these communities" says Xavier Castellanos. The greatest needs for the coming days will be clean water, psychological support, food and shelter for the tens of thousands of people left homeless by Saturday's earthquake. The Salvadorean Red Cross is distributing emergency food rations to those left most destitute.

As Red Cross teams reach towns and villages cut off for last four days the extent of the devastation caused by the earthquake becomes clearer. Assessment teams are visiting damaged areas to ascertain needs and to record the number of people dead and injured, and the number of houses damaged.For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

Denis McClean, Head of Media Service, Geneva Tel.: +41 22 730 4428

Christopher Black, Media Service, Geneva Tel.: +41 79 416 3881