Agatha 6-2-10


Just past Tecpan we saw several landslides along the road to Los Encuentros. There were many traffic stops because of the amount of damage that the four lane highway had been reduced to one lane.  While we saw mostly destroyed farms along the way the first truly widespread destruction we saw was in the aldeas past Los Encuentros on the way to Solola.  These villages were cut through by rivers created from landslides.  Many houses in the path of these newely formed streams were cut through the middle which as I will explain is where most of the destruction in the area came. After getting to Panajachel we hired a boat and contacted E and C so they could meet us at the docks.  The water in the lake is full of debris and has a much darker and obscured color than usual and around the docks in Pana and Santa Catarina it is completely full of loose plant and trash debris.  Upon reaching the docks at Santa Catarina I found that each of the docks were underwater and people were already fishing out wood debris to use to rebuild parts of their house.  We could see some destruction from flooding at the edge of the lake and water was still running down the main street out into the lake. 

We walked merely 3 houses up and were immediately stopped by an elderly woman by the name L who repeated over and over again that the river had come and washed away her house and please help us.  She also explained that the amount of moving and work required for living now that she is staying in the school and trying to rebuild what was lost was hurting her badly and she then lifted up her corte to show e her very swollen knees. 

We met C as we were talking to her and I asked him to take us to the shelter.  He told us that people were staying in the schools in the government building and in the health post. We then walked a bit up the road to find the school on the right.  Inside the school there were several families waiting in and outside the classrooms.  They told us that most of the people are out rebuilding or working right now but they explained to us what the school was like.  In the school alone which had about 8 classrooms they said there were more than 100 people sleeping and eating each day.  We then asked to see one of the rooms and inside was a small bad of dried corn beans and rice with a couple of plates and about 8 blankets.  They said that about 15 people (~5 adults ~10 children) sleep in one classroom on the floor.  They said they sleep with no mats just on the tile floor.  When I asked about cooking food they said that they have no electricity or stoves so families around have been allowing them to use the stoves in their houses or have merely cooked for them and given them part of their food.  We then asked abotu potable water and they said they just have groups of people scoop up drums of water from the lake and boil them then bring them to the schools and that this was what everyone has been drinking since the storm. 

After this we left and headed to the municipal building to talk with the director there in charge of the relief.  His name was M and he was extremely helpful.  He explained that there are about 400 people in shelters right now and last night that there were officially 80 in the school and more in the other building and around the town.  He said that the town has ~4000 people with 780 families in Santa Catarina and out of those 57 houses have been destroyed and 102 other families have been severely affected.  He then was kind enough to give us a copy of a list of each of the families names that were affected with some cedulas from the official list in the Muni.  We asked then what he thought the greatest need for the town was and he told us that the drainage systems and houses were his highest priority and they have a severe lack of help in that area.  We then asked about potable water and he said that Santa Catarina actually had a city wide water filtration system but that system was destroyed (directly translated burned out so possibly an electrical problem) and that they have only a bit of purified water.   After this we discussed rationing, he told us that 159 families are currently receiving rations of beans, rice, noodles, oil, corn, and maseca.  I saw that they also had liquid INCAP in cartons with straws for distribution.  He told us that he believes the town has about 1 week worth of rations stored right now and he doesn’t see a problem with the food supply.  We then asked about medical supplies in the the town and he told us that in the Puesto de Salud there are almost no medications left and that there is no doctor available.  He also said that there is only one pharmacy in town that is privately owned.  He also stated that they have had no visibility of waterborne illness or other maladies. 

After this we went with C and his father for a tour of the entire town.  From the start we noticed that most of the area was covered in rubble and mud.  He took us up the canal that used to allow water to flow safely through the town.  It was at this point that we started seeing severe destruction of each of the houses to either side of the canal and that in places the canal was either filled with rubble and mud or the walls were completely destroyed to allow water to flow freely into the surrounding houses.  We found plenty of houses filled to the windows with mud and many that the roofs were torn off.  In the worst cases support beams and walls were destroyed.  In one house boulders had rolled down from high above in the highway and crushed a house killing 2 people, an 18 year old girl and a 2 year old baby.  We then talked to several families with destroyed houses while they were salvaging what they could find and they all told us that they had evacuated from the homes to a safer location during the storm, which I believe is what minimized the deaths in Santa Catarina in comparison to other towns.  The pictures will show more what damages have occurred and the extent of repair needed. 

After the visit and discussion with B and F we decided that the primary fix needed was the potable water.  Because the town already has an integrated water filtration system it should not be problematic for us to use engineers to find a solution to repairing the facilities and restoring potable water to Santa Catarina.  The second should be the redirection of flows from streets and houses into their dedicated canals.  From this we can start in assisting the population to rebuilding their homes and replanting their farms.  Also in the shelters we should set up a large makeshift pila so that the population living in those areas will not have to bath and wash and cook with the black water from the lake once the water filtration system is back online.  I have already heard from several people that San Antonio is worse but I will see tomorrow with F and K in the afternoon and will try to meet with S and V.  Hope this has been informative and please feel free to respond with questions and I will see if I can answer them to the best my data has to offer.