Tag: natural disaster

Ash clouds from the eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano threaten farmland.
Jun 8 2018

What’s ahead for Guatemala

Long recovery awaits those impacted by Fuego volcano

The immediate danger from the Fuego volcano is far from over, but even after it passes consequences will likely be felt by the people of south-central Guatemala for years.

The first concerns will be caring for survivors, accounting for the missing and burying the dead. The official death toll as of June 7 was 109 with nearly 200 missing, but those figures will almost certainly rise as rescue and recovery workers are able to progress into the areas of greatest impact, where up until now efforts have been hampered by the severe conditions.

Local Unbound staff members are working to account for all sponsored persons and their families in hard-hit areas, all of which are served by the Unbound Hermano Pedro ECA program. At this time staff members have been able to verify that most are safe in either evacuation shelters or the homes of relatives. Nine families remain unaccounted for and efforts to contact them have, so far, been unsuccessful.

In times of natural disasters and other emergencies, Unbound will notify sponsors directly if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously affected.

Ash threatens crops

When those now residing in evacuation shelters are able to return to their homes, the effects of the volcano will endure. According to the Volcano Hazards Program of the U.S. Geological Survey, “Ashfall can have significant impacts on crops much like pasture land. Physical impacts from additional weight of ash on leaves, partial burial and stem/branch snapping all prevent the plants natural processes such as photosynthesis, transpiration and water content leading to crop failure.” Such a widespread failure will not only impact local farmers, but be felt throughout the rest of Guatemala and the other Central and South American countries that import their produce.

Animals also may be affected by the ash. The Volcano Hazards Program states that, “Livestock eating pasture that is contaminated with ash can suffer and die from gastrointestinal blockages. Shortages of uncontaminated feed and water after an ashfall can also lead to starvation.”

Even if any agricultural products do survive, transporting them may be a challenge, according to Unbound’s director of international programs, Dan Pearson, who has been closely monitoring the situation in Guatemala.

“There is some concern that the new lava flow could reach the coastal highway, the larger of the two highways that connect Mexico and the U.S. with the rest of Central America,” Pearson said. “Even temporary closure of that highway would cause significant transportation challenges that would negatively impact Guatemala’s economy.”

Heavy rains loom

To make matters worse, it’s now the rainy season in Guatemala, and people there are in a race against time to try to clear as much ash as possible from plants and roads before the heaviest rains come. The combination of rain and volcanic ash produces a concrete-like substance that blocks waterways and clogs drainage systems, leading to even worse flash flooding than usual.

“The rainy season starts in early to mid-May and it ends in late September or early October,” Unbound communications liaison director Henry Flores said. “In the middle of that season is when the strongest rains arrive. In Guatemala, rains are especially strong for several reasons. One is that it’s high up from sea level, especially the area where the volcano is located. Also, there are lots of coffee plantations around it, which are basically forests, so the rain gets pretty strong there.”

The rainy season always brings health hazards in the form of respiratory and water-borne diseases, but with so many displaced persons living in close proximity in shelters, those hazards will likely increase.

Staff members from Unbound’s Hermano Pedro and Atitlan programs are working to assist people affected by the volcano. As the level of need becomes clearer, they will be available to support sponsored members and their families in their long-term recovery.

What you can do

  • Donate to Disaster Response. Unbound’s Disaster Response fund provides assistance to families in the aftermath of events like the eruption of the Fuego volcano.
  • Make sure your contact information is up to date. In times of natural disaster, Unbound notifies sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously impacted, so keeping your information up to date is important.
  • Pray. The Unbound community holds all those affected and those assisting with rescue efforts in our thoughts and prayers.
  • Check here for updates. We’ll continue to update our blog as we receive additional information.
Jan 16 2013

When a natural disaster hits, does CFCA tell sponsors if sponsored friends are affected?

Ask Sponsor ServicesQ. When a natural disaster hits, does CFCA tell sponsors if sponsored friends are affected?

A. We do our best to inform sponsors personally whenever their sponsored friend has passed away from a natural disaster or any other cause.

We don’t have the resources to contact each individual sponsor if their friends have been evacuated or otherwise affected from a natural disaster. We’re always working to update our records about sponsored friends who were affected: whether they need a new house, for example, or other support we can provide as they recover from tragedies.

Shortly following a natural disaster, CFCA local staff will typically survey the impacted communities and assess if there are specific family needs that CFCA could help address through special funding from donations to the disaster assistance fund or through direct services from our staff.

If your sponsored friend lives in an affected area, please feel free to contact our Sponsor Services team to see whether any specific information about your sponsored friend has been received. We’ll be more than happy to share that with you.

We also post stories on our website whenever disasters strike areas where our sponsored friends live. While these stories generally don’t contain information about specific children or aging friends, they report on the disaster’s impact in the area and how CFCA is helping.

For more information, please email mail@cfcausa.org or call Sponsor Services at (800) 875-6564 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time.

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

Feb 26 2009

‘That was a giant and powerful cyclone for us’

Morondava Subproject Coordinator Roger Ralohotsy sent CFCA his eyewitness description of the cyclone that hit Morondava in mid-January.

On Saturday, Jan. 17, the rain began to pour but it did not last for long time. It drizzled all day. The next day, the heavy rain began to hit this region. The weatherman reported that there is a type of ìIntertropical Convergence Zoneî at the Mozambique Channel. It lasted all day and night. The next day on Jan. 19, the rains gained force, and the roads and the low areas flooded. The buses and the cars in town could not use the main street completely because it was covered by the water. It was hard to walk around: market and sidewalks did not exist anymore because of the water level.

In the middle of the morning, the radio warned the population in this region of Morondava that the bad weather had become a tropical cyclone. At first, the size of that cyclone was about 400 kilometers wide and the wind speed was nearly 150 ñ 200 kilometers per hour. The size of its eye was 30 km wide. That was a giant and powerful cyclone for us.

On the morning of Jan. 20, the cyclone began to move northeast, directly toward Morondava. The wind began to blow and became more and more intense. The radio kept passing on warnings and the different precautions to be taken when the cyclone hit the town. The wind and the rain continued all day.

Later that night, around 11 p.m. everyone could feel the force of the wind. The rain sounded like it was over. Maybe because of the power of the wind, the rain could not hit the ground or the peopleís roofs. At 2 a.m., we could feel from the inside of the house that the wind wiped out everything. The coconut trees cracked, the tin roofs were flying like sheets of paper. All the leaves on the trees were grinded by the wind.

The next morning at 5 a.m. we prepared to go out but there was no way because the wind was so powerful. All the branches which pointed to the opposite direction of the wind were either cut down or twisted. The wind died down at 9 a.m. on Jan. 21.

We started to visit the neighborhood, and there was chaos in general. It is hard to say or give you an exact number, but around 80 percent of the houses had their roofs blown off. The coconut trees fell down. They are actually strong trees but could not resist the force of the wind. Thankfully, they did not fall on peopleís houses. Also, when we discussed with families and friends, we found that no one was hurt.

Damage to the houses and the other infrastructures was serious. I would say about three days after the cyclone, running water returned. As for the electricity, that was different story since there were thousands of meters of wire to be fixed. Many poles fell down or were cut in half. These all had to be replaced.

CFCA is working with the Antsirabe project team and will be providing funding to assist the sponsored families with housing repairs and other critical needs.

Read about CFCA’s Disaster Assistance Fund that helps meet emergency and long-term needs of sponsored members affected by natural disasters.