Friday, May 29, 2009

Post-Quake Situation in Izabal Under Control

The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) reported today that the situation in Izabal still under supervision by the rescue team dispatched immediately after the 7.1 earthquake which struck yesterday morning off the coast of Honduras.

The strong tremor caused damage in several communities in Izabal. There were no fatalities but 18 houses are uninhabitable and 199 sustained moderate damage.

According to Sergio Cabañas of Conred, assessments are being made on a house to house basis to look for structural damage in the communities of Quetzalito and Media Luna.

After inspecting the damaged homes, structural engineers and geologists reported that the damage to homes in Izabal was caused by a phenomenon known as liquefaction, where soil and subsurface material that is saturated with water, when agitated by an earthquake, turn into mud making houses collapse.

$100 Million Damage in Honduras

Authorities reported today an early estimate that approximately U.S. $100 million in damage was caused by the magnitude 7.1 quake that struck early Thursday morning. Six persons were killed.

Marco Burgos of the Comisión Permanente de Contingencias (Copeco) , stated that this was a preliminary estimate and that damage assessments were still underway, particularly at the dock of Puerto Cortés where something serious might happen."

According to Burgos, major damage occurred on the premises of the National Port Company (ENP) in Puerto Cortes.

"The pier is 50 percent operational and inspections are being done by divers to see if there is damage to infrastructure," he explained.

Other major damage occurred in the La Democracia Bridge on the River Ulúa in El Progreso, Yoro Department, which fell into the river. Reconstruction will cost 20 to 25 million dollars.

"Also the levees were broken in 12 places and that it is serious, especially now that we are in winter," the officer lamented.

Sula Valley, the most productive in the country, with the thriving financial capital of San Pedro Sula, is protected by concrete retaining walls to control flooding from the Ulúa and Chamelecón rivers.

After Hurricane Mitch, which hit the country in 1998, the rivers of Honduras are loaded with sediment and have very little capacity to handle large runoff. When it rains, the rivers flood and retaining walls have been built along the banks of the rivers to prevent flooding, especially in the flatlands of the valley in La Lima and El Progreso.

"The pier, the bridge, and the retaining walls have suffered damage but also private companies have suffered losses, such as the hotels Copantl Sula and el Sula. Also the court building at San Pedro Sula will have to be rebuilt, and eight colonial churches were damaged," said deploró Burgos.

Burgos added that work has already begun to repair damage, starting with removing landslides that fell on roads, and a Bailey Bridge is being considered in La Democracia.

The epicenter of the quake was 63 km north of Roatan and was felt in the neighboring countries of Belize, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Izabal Quake Damage Climbing

The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) today reported 2,488 persons in Izabal injured in the 7.1 quake that struck off the coast of Honduras early Thursday morning. This is 562 more than the previously reported count.

177 homes sustained varying degrees of damage.

The latest report from Conred states that 95 homes have minor damage, 58 moderate damage, and and 24 were destroyed or sustained severe damage. The damage is concentrated in the communities of Las Vegas, Quebrada Seca, Santa María del Mar, Suite Tres, Media Luna, La Laguna, Mojanales y El Quetzalito.

According to Conred, water systems in Izabal were damaged so service has been irregular.

Assistance has not been at the levels stated by authorities. At least 14 families are housed in the village school in Aldea Media Luna. They have not received food and authorities have only provided 120 bottles of drinking water and sponges, according to Edvin Cordón, president of Consejo Comunitario de Desarrollo (Cocodes).

"There were a thousand promises, but so far we have not received anything at all, only water that is insufficient for the number of people housed," said Cord.

He added that the task has been left to the community, but people do not have enough resources to feed so many.

David de Leon, spokesman for Conred, confirmed this morning that there were problems with the electric grid serving Izabal but that power has been restored.

The Education Minister, Ana de Molina, said that as a preventive measure classes were suspended yesterday and today, and are expected to resume on Monday. All schools in Izabal are being inspected for damage.

Cases of AH1N1 Surpass 15,000 Worldwide

Geneva, Switzerland - The number of cases of people infected worldwide with influenza virus AH1N1 now stands at 15,510 in 53 countries. 99 have died, according to the latest statistics released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This represents an increase of about 2,000 cases since Wednesday.

The United States has the greatest number infected at 7,927, followed by Mexico at 4,910, and Canada with 1,118.

Japan has reported 364 cases, United Kingdom 203, Chile 165, Australia 147, Spain 107, and Panama 103, according to the WHO.

In Latin America, other countries with confirmed cases are Argentina 37, Costa Rica 33, Ecuador 32, Peru 31, Colombia 17, El Salvador 11, Brazil 10, and Cuba 4.

Guatemala has registered 2 cases, the Dominican Republic 7 cases, while Honduras and Uruguay have one confirmed case each.

Mexico reports the largest number of fatalities from the flu with 85, while the United States reports 11, Canada 2, and one in Costa Rica.

Law on National Languages Still not Enforced

Six years after being adopted, the Law on National Languages is still not enforced, several organizations reported today.

During a forum organized by the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) it was pointed out that since May 23, 2003 no government has shown any willingness to put the law into practice.

The law requires, among other things, that services be provided in the Mayan, Garifuna and Xinca languages, and encourages and promotes the use of those languages. In addition, Article 26 states that the president is responsible for issuing regulations for enforcing the law 90 days after the law took effect.

Martín Sacalxot, an indigenous attorney with the PDH said that "the current president has had four drafts of regulations in his hands and all have been discarded."

Presidential spokesman Fernando Barillas said that he had no knowledge of the subject but stated that the Ministry of Culture would decide the matter.