Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rain, rain, go away

The dry season here was very long. It usually ends in May or June, but this year the rains didn’t begin in earnest until September. And it’s been raining incredibly hard on and off since then.

Yesterday I went with Padre German to two distant communities – Agua Buena  Concepción and Cerro Negro. We got a late start since there was a deanery  meeting in the morning. Mass at Agua Buena began at about 4:30 pm, but I did a presentation to the people starting at 4:00 pm on base communities and the triple ministry. During our time there, it rained so hard that I could hardly hear myself. 

When Mass was over we went to Cerro Negro and arrived there late; Mass began at 7:00 pm. Padre had me do a presentation after the Gospel. As I was finishing, the torrents came and we could do nothing for about 15 minutes. The noise was that loud. Padre sat in silence.

Finally Mass went on; we had dinner at a house nearby and left for Dulce Nombre – usually about 45 minutes from Cerro Negro.

Leaving Candelaria we saw a landslide on the right side of the road and some men standing there. We got out of the truck and went to see if we could pass. We could, but there had been a landslide on the left side of the road that took out the wall of a house.

We continued on. In Caleras we saw another landslide on the right side of the road, near a house.

Caleras is one of the poorest villages in the parish; it is also the village that is almost completely evangelical.

At the bottom of the hill in Caleras, near the evangelical church. where there is a crossroads, the road and small bridge were covered with water. Some guys told us we could pass and guided us – but we got stuck in the sand and the river that replaced the small stream.

Guys came out of the nearby houses and tried to push us out. We finally gave up. The twelve to fifteen young guys, with lots of testosterone, left.

Padre called and asked Marcia to see if there was some way to get a truck to pull us out. We sat back and waited.

However, the water was rising. We abandoned a car and went up to the porch of a poor house nearby – to seek some shelter with the pig and two dogs there.

The people in the house invited us in. They even offered us their only bed! Evangelical Hondurans offering a Guatemalan priest and a US missionary their beds. The generosity of the poor is amazing. 

After about half an hour we saw the lights of a car coming down the hill. It was the mayor with several policemen and a local reporter.

The mayor went and looked around the village, one of the poorest in the area. The water was almost knee deep in some places. We passed a house where the front wall had fallen.

But there was a lot of hidden damage. A young guy told me that about 6:30 pm the waters began rising rapidly and by 7:30 pm were inside many houses and the small evangelical church – which lost its instruments.

The water in one house had reached about two feet high – and that house was about 6 inches above the level of the road.

Note the water line.
The mayor’s truck finally pulled Padre’s car, which – thanks be to God – started.

We followed the mayor’s truck.

The police had told us that they had to cut some trees that had fallen in the road and blocked passage. We barely passed through one passage and saw some serious landslides.

The situation is still pretty precarious and I’m probably stuck in Dulce Nombre for another say. Padre lent me a pair of pants since my jeans were soaked (especially after I fell in the water!)

But the lives of the people are seriously affected. Some communities are incommunicado. Others have suffered major flooding. It will take some time for recovery.

This comes just a day after a major earthquake hit the region. I didn’t feel anything here but there was major damage to the road that goes to the Salvadoran border, near the village of El Portillo which sits on the continental divide.

Why has all this happened?

That’s another post but I’d suggest that some of the causes include climate change/global warming, poor practices of land management, cutting of coffee plants on hillsides, and cutting roads through hills and leaving cliffs without retention walls. This is not really a natural disaster - but one with human causes.

What’s the next step?

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