After Agatha: Rebuilding Guatemala
June 15, 2010
GUATEMALA – In the final days of May, 2010, Central America was pummeled by Tropical Storm Agatha, which finally touched down in the Pacific coastlines of Guatemala. The storm, which dropped more rain than Guatemala had seen for more than 60 years, left a tragic footprint throughout the entire country.
Rivers, such as the Naranjo in the west and the Motagua in the east, rose exponentially, destroying bridges, streets and homes. The highland areas suffered severe landslides, especially in the high altitude areas of Quetzaltenango and Sololá.
Guatemala City had just been recovering from the eruption of Pacaya Volcano on May 27, which launched volcanic ash and sand over the city, clogging up drainage systems and making it even harder for the city to bear the coming storm. Zone 2 of the capital suffered a dramatic land opening of over 30 meters deep and nearly 20 meters across, which swallowed entire buildings and a four-way intersection.
As of June 3, the national Guatemalan emergency response agency, CONRED, had reported 154 deaths, 98 missing and 142,096 people who were evacuated from their homes. 53,244 houses have been reported to have suffered damage, from flooding to complete loss.
In the wake of the storm, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala is preparing a plan to address the damage to low-income housing. While forty Habitat houses sustained damage, most suffered only light damage, and only three have been rendered unsafe for occupation. No Habitat homes were completely lost or caused harm to any Habitat partner families during the storm.
While addressing what can be done to help these 40 families to fix their homes, Habitat Guatemala has launched a promotion of the “Progressive Home” and “Home Improvement” programs. With the help of government agencies and other NGOs the hope is to build progressive houses for many of the families who no longer have a safe place to live.
Progressive houses are two-room, reinforced concrete block homes, built with the intention that families will add on further rooms as their economic situations improve. To those whose houses were not completely destroyed, we offer home improvements. For instance, if a family’s roof was damaged during the storm, Habitat Guatemala helps them build a new rof quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively.
Habitat for Humanity Guatemala hopes to reach as many as possible of the over 50,000 families whose homes have been damaged or destroyed in the last week.
Habitat Guatemala has also launched a television and radio campaign to solicit support from those who have been fortunate enough to escape the storm’s most severe effects.
Visit the following links to watch the TV commercials. For those who don’t speak Spanish, the audio goes more or less, “To rebuild Guatemala after Tropical Storm Agatha, we’re all bricklayers. Come and volunteer… or, if you’d prefer, just make a donation.”
Thank you so much to those who have already expressed their concern for the people of Guatemala during this tragedy. If you’d like to send your prayers or learn more about how you can help rebuild Guatemala, please email Bethany Neumann.
To learn more about Habitat for Humanity in Latin America and the Caribbean, click here.