Hurricane Felix victims likely to increase as rains continue to pound Nicaragua, Oxfam warns

Published: 6 September 2007

Managua – International aid agency Oxfam has today warned that heavy rains are threatening to deal another blow to hurricane-hit Nicaragua. If the rains don't let up soon, mudslides are likely to occur and fields of crops are in danger of being washed away by floods. 

According to initial reports, more than 5,000 houses have already been destroyed or badly damaged by the storms in the North Atlantic region of the country, leaving some 38,000 people stranded. 

Oxfam International is currently preparing its Hurricane Felix response along with Nicaraguan partner organizations, multi-lateral institutions and local and national government authorities, and will tap into its emergency fund in order to dispatch relief supplies as soon as possible. Oxfam is poised to provide relief such as clean water, sanitation services, shelter and public health assistance in the town of Puerto Cabezas, and food security assistance in the town of Waspam. 

According to official reports, some 13,000 people reportedly escaped the storm by finding refuge in public shelters on higher ground. Many were able to flee their vulnerable communities before the storm hit thanks to the National System of Prevention and Disasters Attention (SINAPRED), along with an Early Warning System, known as the SAT. The system was designed to control the water levels of the rivers and the rain patterns, but also to communicate with the region's most isolated communities. Developed by local organizations and the local population, and supported by Oxfam International, the SAT has been in place for the past two years. 

"This Early Warning System alerted many high-risk communities, allowing them to evacuate and directing them to public shelters located in large urban areas," said Germán Quezada, Oxfam International's humanitarian coordinator for Nicaragua. 

Another hard-hit area in Nicaragua's northeast is Jinotega department, where the waters of the Bocay River are already higher in many places than they were during the devastating Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Also, in many indigenous communities such as Wiwilí, strong winds have ripped the roofs off many homes. 

Minor impact so far in Honduras

After causing serious damage in Nicaragua, Hurricane Felix weakened and turned into a tropical storm as it entered Honduras. Oxfam International has remained in constant communication with local authorities and other humanitarian agencies and is ready to respond if the situation worsens.

Although the winds have died down considerably, Honduras remains on high alert as the rains continue to fall and could cause the country's main rivers to burst their banks.

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