Disaster is Different Around
The purpose of this paper is to show the difference between the way the United States faces a disaster and the way Central America handles a disaster. In 1992 we faced the costliest hurricane to hit the United States in history. In 1998 Central America was rocked by fourth strongest hurricane ever. Though both were huge disasters our perception of a hurricane might be a little different than someone living in Latin America.
As previously stated, Central America was hit by a train. And this train had a name?.Mitch. The storm was formed off the coast of Africa and gained strength in the open ocean. When Mitch came ashore on October 29th it had sustained winds of 180mph and unknown gust velocity. It crept slowly inland and dumped record amounts of rainfall in a short period of time. The countries most effected by the hurricane were ; Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Belize. As of December 2, 1998 the number of confirmed deaths was 5,642 with 8,050 still missing. People injured in the storm counted 12,272. Over 1,199,000 people were displaced. With more than 100,000 homes destroyed (UN Situation Report par.9). Over 2,000 people were swept away by mudslides on the Casitas volcano when in one week in October more rain fell than in the previous three years combined. Governments were overwhelmed by the need of supplies. The cost to Honduras alone was well over 4 billion dollars. With over 70% of the food crops destroyed help was needed very badly, but with communication down and 90% of roads washed away it was hard to supply villages deep inland (USAToday online #1 par. 14).
When the Hurricane first came ashore there was very little anyone could do but hold on to something, anything. No place was safe. Central American countries are some of the poorest in the world and a hurricane proof shelter is hard to find. Most people grabbed what they could and headed for the hills. That idea was not always good because then there was a risk of mudslides. After the major part of the storm was over people returned to their homes to find nothing at all. The government did all they could to help but that wasn’t much. Huge towns of plastic tents were constructed. Aid groups came in with food which was hard to come by. There was never enough. In some regions schools and factories were shut down to house and feed the injured. Unemployment soared to a huge 60% due to the lack of places left standing. The government started hiring people to clear roads and public areas. The pay was a whopping 10 dollars a week but that is better than not having a job at all. Analysis shows that rebuilding bridges across the damaged areas could take almost four years(USAToday#1 par.6). Deepening poverty is almost certain. Another thing which is huge problem is the health risks associated with this type of disaster. The destruction and contamination of the fresh water is one of the main things. Another is raw sewage being in the rivers and streams which can spread many diseases. The most common right now in Central America is; diarrhea, skin diseases, acute respiratory infections, conjunctivitis, and a few cases of Leptospirosis. Due to the fact that all these diseases are there makes fewer people want to help in the clean up effort(USAToday#2 par. 11).
On August 24, 1992 the United States was hit by the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Andrew was his name and like Mitch it was a very deadly storm. It had 145mph winds and gusts up to 175mph. Unlike Mitch, Andrew only killed 41 people and destroyed over 100,000 homes(Terry par.#1). Residents who lived in the hills of Central America and had no warning of the approaching hurricane while everyone in Florida and the surrounding areas knew for two days that a hurricane was headed in their direction. In the case with Andrew the Red Cross already had shelters set up and more volunteers on the way to help. American’s being a giving people sent contributions and other supplies to Floridians to help with the recovery effort(Terry par.#3). When we were faced with this deadly storm we did not have to ask the United Nations for assistance because we were equipped to handle such a disaster. Unlike Latin America which was caught off guard and totally blinded to the fact that a tragedy of this caliber could happen to them.
As you can see from this report someone living in Miami, Florida and someone living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras might have slightly different perceptions when it comes to hurricanes. I believe that if I lived in Central America my views might change also. But since I have never been in or even seen a hurricane or a hurricanes destruction this is all kind of foreign to me. Due to my research for this paper I believe that I have a better idea about what a furious hurricane can would be like. And I hope I never have to face that problem my whole life. It is just something that I could do without.