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Storm ravages Central America

Help is arriving in Central America after Hurricane Stan ravaged the region.


Help is arriving in Central America after Hurricane Stan ravaged the region.

Stan moved through the area early last week and dropped as much as a foot of rain in some areas, which caused mudslides in Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. Heavy rains flooded parts of Honduras and Nicaragua as well. Landslides took out entire villages in some areas, burying hundreds of people.

Thousands are feared dead and the death toll is still climbing - more than 650 are dead in Guatemala alone. Hundreds of people are still missing.

"From our home, we could see small houses being swept away by the river - people were screaming and shaking with cold, and animals were looking for refuge," said a Christian Reformed World Relief Commitee (CRWRC) staff member in the region.

"Hundreds are dead or missing, and thousands lost everything they own. Floods and collapsed bridges throughout the country continue to make communication difficult, leaving hundreds of affected communities completely isolated. The scope of this disaster is more than is manageable."

CRWRC is sending emergency aid into the area via a Guatemalan agency. Many other faith-based organizations are sending in aid as well.

Action by Churches Together is working through its partners in the affected countries to provide both emergency and long-term assistance. Week of Compassion is doing the same, contacting its partner churches in the region to assess the needs. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance also sent funding to partner agencies in El Salvador for emergency response. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is sending grants to its partner agencies in El Salvador. Episcopal Relief and Development is active in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) sent food, water, mattresses, money and medicine into El Salvador last week, where the rain was said to be the worst in years. LWR contacts in the region say thousands have been made homeless by Hurricane Stan.

"The existing partnerships that we have in Latin America make it easy for us to respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies like these," said Michael Watt, LWR's regional director for Latin America.

LWR is also sending funding for food and medicine into hard hit regions of Nicaragua, where food shortages and illness outbreaks are setting in.

Many of the responding organizations are comparing the devastation caused by Stan to that of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. All agree that the recovery from Stan will take years.

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