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Authorities struggle to deliver aid after deadly hurricane

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-11-12

El Salvador's Health Ministry has said it lacks the medical supplies, man power and equipment needed to continue rescue operations launched after Hurricane Ida devastated the Central American country.

AFP - The death toll from devastating floods and landslides in El Salvador rose to 157 Wednesday as the Health Ministry launched a massive rescue operation.
  
Government teams are hampered by limited resources, the ministry said, noting in a statement their lack of medical supplies, man power, rescue equipment, and poor infrastructure across the country in the wake of the devastation unleashed by late-season storms.
  
The total number of dead rose by five over late Tuesday's figures to 157, civil protection authorities said, after the landslides and overflowing rivers swept away homes and ripped through remote towns.
  
In eastern San Vicente department -- the epicenter for the crisis -- authorities worried that some 58 people may still be buried under rubble.
  
The mayor of San Vicente capital, Medadro Hernandez Lara, has said that 500 people were still missing on the outskirts of his city, citing information gathered from survivors of the worst natural disaster to hit the Central American nation in years.
  
Officials are urging local authorities and residents to immediately bury the dead, warning against the severe health risks from bodies in advanced stages of decomposition.
  
To combat "anxiety and depression" in the population, the health ministry is also promoting a program covering mental health.
  
Meanwhile experts are assessing the risk of more instability surrounding the Chichontepec volcano in San Vicente, where last week massive rock slides poured into surrounding villages and towns, burying whole houses and their occupants.
  
The number of people seeking emergency shelter rose to over 14,000, a civil protection official said, while 1,800 homes were damaged or destroyed and 18 bridges and many roads were washed away by the floods.
  
On Wednesday, a plane carrying some 20 tons of food, medicines and other items arrived from Venezuela to help victims of the disaster, and a US plane arrived with 60 tons of food, bottled water and toiletries.
  
Losses to the agriculture industry were estimated at 32 million dollars, according to ministry of agriculture figures, after around 50,000 hectares (123,552 acres) of maize, beans and coffee were affected.
  
The devastation was initially blamed on Hurricane Ida, which did not hit the country of some seven million people directly, but brought heavy rain that affected the entire region.
  
Meteorologists on Tuesday said Ida however was not solely to blame.
  
As Ida was slamming Nicaragua and Honduras late last week "there was another system coming from the eastern Pacific" spreading "very heavy rains over western El Salvador," said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman with the US National Hurricane Center.

Date created : 2009-11-12

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