Saturday, September 08, 2007

The dead from Hurricane Felix wash up on the beaches

Some people just couldn't get out of the way. When Hurricane Felix made landfall on the coast of Nicaragua the residents of the Miskito Keys had not evacuated and took the cyclone full force.
The number of people killed when Hurricane Felix tore into the border area of Nicaragua and Honduras this week has jumped to at least 130, a Nicaraguan rescue official said on Friday.

"We have around 130 corpses listed," civil defense official Fabio Benedic said. The dead were mainly Nicaraguan Miskito Indians, including some fishermen whose bodies washed up in Honduras.

Benedic said about 70 people were believed missing after high waves drowned fishermen, battered coastal villages and devastated islets known as the Miskito Keys.

A Nicaraguan newspaper said the death toll was 168.

Hundreds of people did not evacuate before the storm and had only their flimsy wooden shacks for shelter. Some tied themselves to trees or boats in a bid to withstand Felix's 160-mph (256-kph) winds, local fisherman said.

The Scotsman provides a little more detail.

Nicaraguan villagers spent four days in shark-infested seas clinging to driftwood or smashed houses and boats after Hurricane Felix battered the Caribbean coast, survivors said on Saturday.

A Nicaraguan navy patrol boat brought 40 men and one woman ashore in the port of Puerto Cabezas after plucking them out of the sea or whisking them from battered, isolated islands.

Some survivors, mostly lobster divers who were at sea when the deadly Category 5 storm hit, lived to tell their tale by tying themselves to floating wood as they were battered by Felix's 160 mph (260-kph) winds and mammoth waves.

"It was a plank, a plank just like this one," said Onesio Perez, pointing to the planks of the dock, his arms covered with rope burns from strapping himself to the wood, as he stepped ashore at this Caribbean port.

Another survivor, Kelvin Ortega, said he spent four days floating on a piece of driftwood.

Hurricane Felix tore into the border area of Nicaragua and Honduras this week and killed at least 130 people. The dead were mainly Nicaraguan Miskito Indians, including some fishermen whose bodies washed up in Honduras.

There is something of a question here. The Miskito Keys are isolated and to have evacuated them ahead of the arrival of Felix would have been a relatively large undertaking. Issuing nothing more than an evacuation order would have been quite pointless since those living in the Miskito Keys have no means of mass evacuation on hand and literally, no place to go.

Did anyone offer them a means to escape?

UNICEF is reporting that the death toll will probably rise as the rescue brigades arrive in the area.

According to the Nicaraguan Civil Defence Force, over 34,000 people have been affected by Hurricane Felix in Nicaragua's northern Caribbean region and 8,441 houses were damaged. These figures are likely to increase as the rescue brigades reach communities isolated by the rain and swollen rivers.
Unless I've missed something, it would appear that getting help to the affected areas is still a problem. The government of Nicaragua has asked for US military help and the US has sent a ship, helicopters and troops. Venezuela has sent emergency food supplies to the area. The question remains, however, what was done to get people out of the way of a well reported and sufficiently forecast killer hurricane?

The residents of Puerto Cabezas are complaining they weren't given enough warning of the impending arrival of Felix and are getting too little aid from Managua in its wake.

Tensions are rising between residents of the autonomous region hit by the storm and the central government are rising as villagers complain they weren't given enough advance warning about the monster storm and are getting little aid in its aftermath.
A minimum of 36 hours existed between international warning issued and Felix's landfall. In fact, by September 1st, computer models and forecasters were providing alerts indicating that Felix would be heading straight for Central America.


(H/T Eugene)

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