EMAIL 6 OCT 7: Disaster, Destruction, and Landslides in Santiago
I know many of you are wondering why you are receiving another email from me in 1 week. However, as I assume most of you all know mother nature and the heavy rains have had a devastating impact on Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador over the course of this week.
Specifically, after sending you my update on Tuesday and learning of the President's decision to declare Guatemala in a State of High Alert and Emergency, I was made aware of the devastating destruction and damage that tragically hit Santiago, Atitlan, the place I have called home for the last month. The place that represents 99% of all of my feelings and experiences here in Guatemala.
Many of you have emailed me or called my parents to see how I am doing or my host family and friends of Santiago because CNN, BBC, and other international newspapers have specifically alluded to the damage and destruction in Santiago and the state of Solola, Guatemala.
Due to the heavy rains, landslides occurred on the outside of town near the hospital and the road to San Pedro in the canton (area) of Panavaj. My family resides in Xechivoy. The landslides have already claimed the lives of 50 people and many more are missing. Homes are destroyed. Families have been separated. Telephone lines are down. You cannot leave or go to Santiago because other bridges and roads leading to the city have been damaged or destroyed. Power was restored in some of the area. Water is running out.
Although my family's "home" was not affected, my host parents are 100% greatly affected by this tragedy as they are assisting with the emergency situation, etc.
I have included an email below to give you a more accurate portrayal of the situation in Santiago as of today from a friend of mine, Amanda- a Peace Corps Volunteer, who lives on the boarder or edge of Panavaj.
Please keep the people of Santiago (and other areas) in your thoughts and prayers in the same way as you did for the people of New Orleans. When tragedy hits underdeveloped countries without all of the proper resources and planning, restoration of daily life will take time. However, I can assure you that the people of Santiago will overcome this tragedy and work together as a community.
Email from Today from Santiago:
we are all thinking of you. please keep us in your thoughts as well.
i am sure you heard of the rains that hit us a few days ago. we were so unprepared. the situation in santiago is tragic. we had landslides in many rural communities and some areas were completely demolished.
we have mingo and his 10 children staying at our house, because there house was washed away. the death toll in santiago continues to rise, but we are somewhere around 50 right now.
most people from the rural communities have now been evacuated and have found refuge in the center of town in churches, schools, houses.
martin and i have been working non stop in different sectors. he has been evacuating people by lancha since the rural roads were flooded. i spent yesterday organizing a children's room for children who had been separated from their parents.
the whole experience still feels unreal. i have never been so close to disaster/death.
still, our community continues to pull together. women are bringing baskets of tortillas to town to give out, we have a "soup kitchen" set up in argentina's classroom, men have been going out to the campo to look for buried bodies or to help people mobilize to the center of town.
the peace corps is really working hard to help us out.
sadly we have little communication. telephone lines are down, and cell lines. i just have computer access now that the power is back.
i am feeling very proud of the people of santiago and the foreign community.
martin's out in lancha now trying to locate the volunteers in san juan and san marcos. the relief effort has been incredible.
still, i am a little unsure of the what next? water is running low and lake water is completely contaminated.
so many families are without houses now and food. the rain has finally stopped, but the weather remains ambiguous.
so, this is my life today.
how are you in the city? we miss you. francisco has been a true hero with the bomberos, argentina a great organizer and leslie a fantastic help.
we'll be in touch. Abrazos, Amanda