Four sponsored children die in mudslides
May 31, 2010
SAN LUCAS TOLIMAN, Guatemala — Four children sponsored through CFCA have died and four are missing following mudslides triggered by Tropical Storm Agatha, which tore through Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador over the weekend.
The children are all from CFCA’s Atitlan project in Guatemala. Names of the deceased children will be released once their sponsors have been notified by CFCA. No deaths of sponsored children have been reported in the Hermano Pedro project, which is also based in San Lucas Toliman but serves communities throughout the country.
“Everyone in the regions and subprojects has been working yesterday and today on a census of the sponsored families, collecting information on numbers of families who have lost homes, been evacuated, are living in shelters, etc.,” said Dan Pearson, CFCA’s director of international operations, who was in Guatemala when the storm hit. “We may have preliminary numbers as early as Tuesday, but it could be later in the week for complete numbers.”
CFCA staff members in both projects are safe, and nearly all were able to make it to their respective offices Monday, Pearson reported. At least two staff members from the San Lucas regional center have relatives who perished, and several have relatives who lost their homes. The regional office in Quetzaltenango was flooded and could not be utilized.
More than 200 people took refuge in the San Lucas regional center Saturday night, Pearson said. Most were families who are not part of the CFCA program but were stranded or evacuated during the storm. Some of them were from other towns and got stranded in San Lucas by the storm, and those families have returned home. About 150 people remain, about half of them children.
“Most of those who remain here at the center have lost their homes and belongings and have nowhere else to go.” Pearson said. “The city of San Lucas is providing food for the families, and they have organized themselves well since they arrived. They are staying in the sponsor housing (which accommodates sponsors on CFCA mission awareness trips) and a few in the large meeting room. The schools are closed all week, so the kids are playing a lot of soccer on the CFCA soccer field.”
One of the two routes between San Lucas and Guatemala City was reported to be open Monday (the route through Las Trampas and Chimaltenango), Pearson said. Several sections can only handle one-lane of traffic, so there were long waits in both directions.
“The terrain is pretty rough on the road, so only 4x4 pickups are getting through at this point,” Pearson said. “They say it should be much better in a couple of days. The coastal route from San Lucas to Guatemala City is completely blocked just a couple of miles outside San Lucas and looks like it will stay that way for a while. Bridges washed out and the road is covered with mud and large rocks.”
Pearson and Hermano Pedro Project Coordinator Jorge Armas will head to Chimaltenango to work with the regional and subproject teams to assess the damage, visit sponsored families who have been affected, and support the team in their post-disaster work.
“Chimaltenango is the part of the country that has registered the most deaths at this point, and there is a lot of damage in that area,” Pearson said.
CFCA serves nearly 85,000 sponsored members and their families in Guatemala through the Hermano Pedro and Atitlan projects. Guatemala was hit hardest by the storm. According to news reports citing the nation’s emergency services, at least nine rivers have reached high levels and 13 bridges have collapsed. CFCA is awaiting word from projects in Honduras and El Salvador about possible damage and impact on sponsored members in those countries.
Pearson said the storm moved through quickly but left significant damage in its wake.
“The worst seems to be over, but the amount of rebuilding that lies ahead for everyone here is enormous,” he said. “Please keep the sponsored families, the CFCA teams and all Guatemalans in your prayers.”