Jun 3 2010

Mudslides devastate towns “…in the blink of an eye”

The following is an account from Luis CocÛn, CFCAís communications liaison in Guatemala, who visited communities to report on the damage caused by Tropical Storm Agatha over the weekend.

It was 6:15 p.m. on Saturday when a loud crack followed by tons of mud, rocks and trees wiped away 26 homes in San Antonio Palopo, taking the lives of at least 18 people, including CFCA sponsored children. It is unknown how many sponsored members have died from the storms.

A purse and a pair of boots are recovered from a home after mudslides in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala.

Many families were having dinner and with no previous notice. They lost everything in the blink of an eye. Local authorities estimate that there are another 32 homes in a high risk area and can collapse at any time. Many families are staying with relatives, some in churches, the municipality building and in the CFCA office building in San Antonio.

A lot of people cannot make a living anymore. Mothers who weave lost their weaving materials, fathers that fish lost their little canoes and day laborers cannot work because they lost their tools. Children have been left orphans. Entire families lost their lives, beds, clothes and everything they had.

A total of 15 bodies were buried Sunday morning. The people of San Antonio Palopo came together in solidarity to say goodbye in a town procession to the local cemetery. Monday, four more bodies were buried. Rescue teams continue searching for people with nothing more than their bare hands and a few hand tools. Only their faith gives them strength to persist.

CFCA staff stand at the base of a deadly mudslide in San Antonio Palopo, Guatemala.

A man who is still searching the mud for family members said, ìI am going to look for them until I find their bodies. I have lost everything. I donít have a home or money. I havenít changed clothing until today. Neighbors gave me clothes because I have nothing left.î

Pedro lost two children and his wife, and now it is only him and his little girl that must find strength to continue.

ìAll of our people are sad. Our town is in tears,î said a mother of a missing sponsored boy.

Antonio Perez Diaz, a CFCA social worker in San Antonio Palopo said, ìI am from San Antonio and I feel the pain of my people. Yesterday, we did not feel like eating. There is a lot of pain and tears.î

A father of a sponsored boy who died recounted the evening of the storms:

ìWe were all together at home. There was a lot of rain. The water always comes through here, but this time it was too much. By the time we realized our home was swept away, my boy and I ran one way and my wife and my girl ran the other way. We went to my father-in-lawís where we thought we would be safe.

“[My son] was in that home when all of a sudden there was a big crack and when I turned, my father-in-lawís home was gone, too. I searched and I found my wife and my daughter, but I could not find [my son]. He did not make it. They found his body at the door with debris on his head. He was dead. We buried him on Sunday.

ìI donít know where to start over again. My hope is to support my wife and my little girl, I need to work hard and continue life, and this is how we are now.î

Diaz said, ìYour thoughts and prayers are very valuable to us. Here we feel that we are not alone through your support. We have lost loved ones, but we thank CFCA for the solidarity and for sharing our struggle, and being a source of hope at this moment.î

The people of San Antonio have stepped forward to give a helping hand to their neighbor. We have seen how this has brought the occasion to rebuild a stronger community.

Please visit the CFCA website for more information about the impact of Tropical Storm Agatha on CFCA communities, including the following news stories:

Community struggles with loss, uncertainty after deadly storm

CFCA helps families after tragic storm in Central America

Four sponsored children die in Guatemala mudslides

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