Friday, October 21, 2011

Rains and Floods

For more than a week now, all of Central America has been smacked by tropical storms dumping heavy rainfall and causing dangerous flooding in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.  Where we are in Managua we haven't seen too many strong downpours but it does seem like it's been raining for days. This post from Global Voices rounds up a bunch of videos of raging rivers and flooded houses from all around Central America.

We've heard news from several Misión Cristiana churches outside of Managua who have seen serious flooding and other problems.  The past two weekends, we had planned to visit churches in San Juan de Limay and El Sauce, but both trips were canceled because washed out bridges and surging rivers made the roads impassable.  There have been some deaths reported, as well as many displaced families and a lot of damage.  Even more worrisome is the risk of families losing their fall bean harvest.

Nicaragua, of course, has a long history with extreme weather.  Hurricanes Mitch (1998) and Felix (2007) are still fresh in people's memory.  Mitch had an especially tragic impact, leading to 3,800 deaths in Nicaragua alone -- 2,000 from a enormous mudslide that basically buried several villages.  These rain storms are nowhere near as catastrophic, but it makes you think...  A recent study ranked Nicaragua 4th on the list of countries most at risk from climate change, mostly due to the risk of extreme weather events.

In Managua, the main danger is the rising level of Lake Xolotlán.  Much of the northwestern part of the country drains into the lake, so torrential downpours in faraway mountain towns end up doing double damage as rising waters flood the Managua neighborhoods along the lake's edge.  La Prensa has some video of the encroaching water in the Acahualinca neighborhood, where the First Church of la Misión Cristiana is located and does its work.  Last year, a similar rise in the level of the lake displaced hundreds of families, and some predict that this year may set a record for highest recorded lake level.

Disaster response has long been one of la Misión's ministries and folks are already talking about how the church should respond to the pastoral needs of its members and their communities, once the problems are known.  If the crop losses turn out to be bad, the food security project may need to be re-tooled and expanded.  But for now, we're waiting to hear news and keeping our umbrellas ready.

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