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Dangerous hurricane targets Mexico

BY SUSAN KIM | Baltimore, MD | September 29, 2000

Keith could rake Mexico's popular tourist spot Cancun, forecasters noted, and it is already dumping heavy

rain on eastern Yucatan, Belize, and northern Honduras. In Nicaragua, where people have also been

evacuated from low-lying areas, forecasters are warning against mudslides.

In Honduras, long-term recovery efforts are still underway from 1998's Hurricane Mitch. Mitch -- which

has been documented as the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane ever -- killed some 12,000 people and

affected the homes of 82,720 Honduran families in November 1998.

Many faith-based and voluntary groups still operate programs in Honduras to help residents recover from

Mitch. "We are still building houses, and we're still helping farmers redevelop their land," said Jacob

Kramer, of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. A significant agricultural challenge has been

improving the condition of the top soil, much of which was virtually blown off by Hurricane Mitch.

Volunteer teams from the U.S. and other countries are also helping residents rebuild roads and walking

paths. Others are helping construct water systems.

At this point, some rain may help further stabilize farmers, said Kramer. "We have had a bit of drought in

certain areas."

The danger of mudslides today is less than it was when Hurricane Mitch hit. "The area has already had an

enormous amount of water all at once. Many areas that were unstable have collapsed, and most rebuilding

has not been done in risky areas," said Kramer.

A U.S.-based volunteer team, coordinated through the Church World Service Hurricane Mitch

Coordination Office, will travel to Honduras on Oct. 4 to rebuild houses.

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) -- along with many other denominations -- has sent volunteer teams

through the CWS effort. "We encourage Lutheran groups to join in," said LWR spokesperson Jonathan

Frerichs.

The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) works with the Social Action Commission of the Honduran

Mennonite Church to offer long-term recovery programs for Hondurans, and the Adventist Development

and Relief Agency also has programs that focus on long-term recovery and child health. Catholic Relief

Services and World Vision also involved in rebuilding homes.

Many groups reported that, when flooding or another disaster hits existing programs, response is

conducted by expanding or augmenting those already in place. "We had regular programs in Honduras on

an ongoing basis for years before Mitch hit," said Linda Shelly, of the MCC. "But Mitch was so huge and

devastating in so many parts of the country, we had to work with many groups with a lot of desire to help

and a vision of what they wanted -- but no experience."


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