Partners report on El Salvador’s state of emergency

Radio Victoria transmits from the town of Victoria in the northern hills of El Salvador. Photo from Radio Victoria website.

PWRDF received the following report from Cristina Starr Founding member Radio Victoria, Victoria, Cabañas Department, courtesy Brenda Hubbard CoCoSI –both PWRDF partners in El Salvador.
November 8, 2009
It is Sunday night and El Salvador is in a state of emergency. Five of the 14 departments (provinces) have been hit by enormous quantities of rain. In parts of San Vicente there was more than 14 inches in less than 12 hours, a whole month’s worth of rain in 3 hours.
Bridges have been washed out, there are numerous landslides one of which has cut off the main  highway that bypasses San Salvador, drainage systems are blocked by trash, and rocks,  trees and debris carried by river currents are causing flooding, houses have been crushed by fallen retaining walls, rivers have changed their course, houses have been left filled with mud and 7,000 people are in shelters.
I am up at the radio, almost one thousand meters above sea level on good solid ground, it is so wet and foggy and cool, we have had days of this, outside it is more like a misting wall of water than rain.
Mauricio Funes, the newly elected President of the Republic, representing the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) just stated that there are now 124 dead, most buried by mud slides or carried away by water currents and it is still raining. There are many people missing and only helicopters could evacuate many areas. Once again tragedy and disaster, not because of a natural phenomenon but because of inadequate preparation to confront such phenomena.  Vulnerability is the word.
But….
• our new government was just cited in a survey with an 85% approval rating
• our new government is lowering electricity bills by 10%
• our new government has stopped soliciting “voluntary fees” for public health care services
• our new government is giving free school supplies, uniforms and shoes to all students in the public schools
• our new government will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the assassination of 6 Jesuit priests assassinated on November 16, 1989 with the country’s highest honours
• our new government is meeting with our community radio association saying we have strategic importance.
The right wing ARENA party that ruled El Salvador for 20 years has broken apart, 12 of their 32 national assembly deputies declared themselves in rebellion and have formed their own legislative block and have now twice voted together with the FMLN, once to block an investigation the ARENA party was promoting and last Friday to approve the 2010 national budget, this last vote was also supported by the right wing National Conciliation Party (PCN), unbelievable and historic!
Things are hard, so hard, so much violence and poverty and yes there are disappointments, but what a difference the new president is making, it is still sinking in and the significance still blowing me away.
Our radio station pushes on, there are incidences that keep us tense and on our toes, people being followed, strange people outside radio folks’ houses in the middle of the night, still occasional threats, it’s exhausting, it is intimidation, it shows we are doing work that matters and that buoys us, but it is wearing.
That is the news tonight.  I hope you are all well and safe and doing good work.
November 9, 2009     
It is so beautiful out, pure blue sky, cool and bright, the sun shining after almost a week.  It just fills you with hope, which is what keeps people here going.

There are bridges out and electric poles down so many people and communities are incommunicado. 

The number of dead has risen to 130 with an estimated 60 missing. There are many high risk zones where people are still being evacuated and there are 13,680 people in 118 shelters, most of them schools and so many classes are suspended.

And these are only the preliminary numbers.
More later, have a great day, stay safe, stay strong, keep up the good work.

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