Guatemala: Volcano, Storm Force Evacuations

Guatemala evac

People arrive at a makeshift shelter in Santa Rosa, Guatemala, after they were forced to leave their homes due to the torrential rain dumped by Tropical Storm Agatha. Photo courtesy of CRS partner the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima

Anne Bousquet, CRS country representative for Guatemala, describes the conditions in Guatemala after the eruption of the Pacaya volcano and the torrential rains brought by Tropical Storm Agatha.

It’s been a week since the Pacaya volcano erupted and people are still sweeping the ash from their homes and streets. I mean, the ash, it’s like snow that doesn’t melt. It’s black, black sand. The big issue is roof collapses because when the ash gets wet it gets very heavy. I’m amazed at how much has gotten cleaned up in such a short time. There are teams of public workers dedicated to the effort but you also see average citizens cleaning up their neighborhoods. I really hope it doesn’t blow again.

Guatemala truck

People evacuate their homes in the village of Aldea in Santa Rosa, Guatemala, after flooding from Tropical Storm Agatha. Photo courtesy of CRS partner the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima

A bad situation was made worse by the arrival of Tropical Storm Agatha, which dumped torrential rainfall throughout Guatemala. All told, 21 of 22 departments have been impacted. So far there are 156 people reported dead and over 140,000 people evacuated. The short-term needs right now are food, water, medicine and temporary shelter. The good thing here is that the majority of evacuees are with family or friends although there are over 88,000 in shelters. But soon people are going to need homes to return to because some of them were mired in mud and floodwaters. Some homes can be repaired quickly but others will take time depending on the amount of damage.

Going home will really help people to return to a certain sense of normalcy that will allow them to begin focusing on getting their kids back in school and earning a living. The floodwaters washed away crops. If they are going to reap any harvest this year they have to get new crops into the ground soon. If they don’t get it in now they are going to lose that essential resource and potential income. So there is that sense of urgency.

We sent two teams of experts to Escuintla today and one team will travel to San Lucas Toliman tomorrow, to assess how we can be of most assistance to our partners and the people affected. San Lucas Toliman was really hit hard by the storm and like Escuintla and many other areas of the country, they have had a couple of deaths. It’s devastating. Some of the worst hit areas are getting attention in the media but some that are still really bad aren’t getting any. We can’t forget that the people who were affected by the volcano continue to need our help, despite the fact that Agatha left so many others temporarily homeless.

Our goal is getting people back into their communities and their regular lives as quickly as possible. Around the volcano a number of schools were partially or totally destroyed by rocks. We are interested in working on needed repairs. We are currently mobilizing food, water, medicine, hygiene kits, cooking kits, temporary shelter supplies for those most in need.

Share on Twitter


Leave a Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.