Talamanca Floods November 2008

It’s a Disaster!

Last week I wrote about the rain here in Limón province. Well, the statistics are in: November saw an increase in levels from the usual 372 mm (22 inches) for the month to over 780 (47 inches. That’s well over a yard in a month!)–– and those figures were before the end of November. The rain has left people homeless and still it continues. Today it is raining hard and the electricity is gone… again.

The post office in Puerto Viejo was closed all last week and I finally asked the pharmacist across the way when the post mistress was coming back.

“Her house washed away, but I think she is coming back Monday,” he said.

I was in town yesterday and indeed she was back at the job. I asked about her house while she checked my mailbox for a package.

“All my belongings are wet and most of them are ruined from the mud,” she told me, “but my house is still there.”

She is not alone.

According to our English language newspaper, The Tico Times, pending a complete report The National Emergency Commission (CNE) more than 4500 homes and dozens of roads and bridges were destroyed or severely damaged due to high waters and mudslides. The banana companies are declaring 21 million dollars in losses due to flooding, and no telling how much the locals businesses are losing because of the rains. At least one person has died and approximately 5800 people have requested refuge in 84 shelters in the region. Many families were trapped without access to relief efforts.

By Wednesday of last week we were declared a disaster area and President Arias made available 3.8 million dollars for the effort. Emergency operations have worked steadily ever since to reach the indigenous communities in the mountainous terrain of Mt Chirripó that were left isolated and without food or drinking water.

Helicopters from the U.S. Southern Command have been flying over our heads daily taking the needed supplies to people up in the mountains above us as well as into western Panama to our south, where, according to the United Nations, at least eight people have died. The photo I have included is of the town of Sixaola on the Costa Rica/ Panama border and is about ten miles from us.

We had a rainy season like this a couple of years ago. At the end of a three month period it had rained a total of 1375 mm (a cool 7 feet) of rain. By the end of that stint all of our houses were moldy and most women were going slightly crazy from being house-bound, but at least we had houses. I have gathered together clothes and food and dropped it off at a relief checkpoint. As President Arias said, “We may not be able to stop the rain, but we can all help the victims.”

Let’s hope for drier weather in December.