Thursday, October 13, 2011

Severe weather!

Hi, things have calmed down here, thank goodness! 
What a day yesterday was!
We started sandbagging at  The phone started ringing non stop. 

Many of our staff could not get into the office. The roads were blocked. Often when the roads are blocked , the staff members who live in San Jorge and Solola walk down the mountain ...but the paths were too dangerous to come down. 

One of our staff members, Berta walked down from San Andres.  In some parts, she was knee deep in mud, she had to go past two rock slides that had just happened, it was pouring rain and she arrived completely soaked. I was so surprised to see her as I knew the road was blocked and it was dangerous. I asked her why she had come and she said that she" didn't have any saldo ( time on her cell phone ) to call so she thought she had better come in ".    That was dedication!  But after a hot drink and a change of clothes and shoes, we told her to go home as if it continued raining there would be a chance that she would not be able to get back home to her four children. 

Several of our other staff suffered personal losses yesterday.    Juan our Construction manager was hit the hardest.  Juan' s house in Panajachel is close to the river, well , originally, it wasn't but after Tropical Storm Agatha last year, a road in front of his house was washed away and little by little the land has been eroded by the river till it was very close to his house.  

 Yesterday, a lot of land fell away and Juan's house was only feet from the river. At, Juan, his very pregnant wife, she is about to give birth any day..and..his three children were moving their furniture and possessions out of the house.     Juan has a hefty loan on this house that he is paying to the bank.   Last year Juan had the idea to take out another loan, he was offered land at a very good deal and he decided that the way to help  him pay off his loan, would be to build another house and rent it out.  He worked every week end and after work building this house himself....he had almost finished that house when Tropical Storm Agatha hit.  It wiped out the whole area where Juan's house was completely washed away ...including the land.    So he has been paying off the loan on the land and building that doesn't exist anymore.   The money that he had hoped he would get in rent to help him pay off the house that he and his family lived in ..instead became more of a burden.  

Yesterday, it became obvious that even if Juan's house did not fall in the had only a foot or two to go when we left ...I am not sure if it is still standing today, but it is impossible for the family to live there. 

It is a family compound ...and several of the family are Mayan Families staff members.

Estuardo who is the caretaker at Marti..( this is our offices that we had to move to when we evacuated last year ..we now have medical clinics , sewing classes and hope to soon open a computer class there) .had to evacuate his wife and two children.  

Gloria and Julio have their house in this compound, they are very aware that even if their house does not go this time, that they will not be able to return there.  

  The house that Mayan Families friends bought for Amelia is also in this compound.    For those of you who don't know Amelia, she is a single mother of five children, she has serious health challenges . She was an orphan and has no family that she could leave her children if she was to pass away.   Several years ago, members of this group and other Mayan Families friends decided that the best thing was to make sure that she had a house to live in and that her children would always have a house to live in if anything should happen to her.  We purchased this house in the compound because it was safe and she would have the support of the other families around her...who are Mayan Families staff.  

Amelia was devastated yesterday watching the beginning of the end of her house.   Even though it may not fall into the river this time, the writing is on the wall that it will eventually go...and it may not be safe to return to it. The roads have fallen away to the entrance of her house. There is now only way to get into the compound and it will only be by foot and we don't know how long that will last.   Yesterday, Amelia's son, Samuel and several Mayan Families staff climbed over the wall from a neighbors house to gain access to Amelia's house so that they could take blankets and a few essentials out of the house.   

Amelia has the complication that two weeks ago...a cousin that she had lived with for a  while when she was growing up came to visit her bringing three children.   The cousin is from the coast and wanted a break from an abusive husband with a drinking problem.  The husband came a few days later, brought the other two children and told her that he would not support them anymore.   Apparently, he didn't very much before hand but at least they had some food. So Amelia now has a cousin with five children staying with her, they are all homeless now and Amelia is the only support that they  now have for food.   Yesterday, was a very difficult day for Amelia. She felt overwhelmed with everything that was happening.  She was in tears but trying to be brave for her children.     

Sandra, our social worker and her new husband, Fredy also have a house in that compound.  They took out a loan last year and have been building their home. They had a first floor for Sandra's eldery grandparents and mother to live and a second floor for themselves.  They have almost finished building. They have really been struggling to pay this house off and have made a lot of sacrifices.  Sandra is pregnant and expecting their first baby in January.  They were looking forward to moving into this house in the next few months.   

Yesterday, Sandra came to work and dealt with everything that was happening in the office. Sandra is very dedicated . But she was clearly suffering. When I spoke to her about her house, her beautiful brown eyes filled with tears and she choked up, she could not talk about losing the house.   Even though her house will be the last to go , once the first house goes, it is the death knell for the rest of them.  

Dina from Family Aid and several other staff members went out into the town to check on the people from our Elderly Care Program. The streets that some of our Elderly lived on were flooded and blocked by debris.  

While visiting the elderly Dina heard someone call her name and she saw one of our sponsored students and their family were in trouble with their house. They lived in a very basic wood plank house.  A mud slide had come down and their house was full of mud.  Dina and the others set to work to help them. Dina was knee deep in mud, digging out the house and trying to save the families possessions.   A neighbor gave them an empty room made of cement block that they could store their belongings and spend the night.  

Other staff members visited the emergency shelters, finding several of our sponsored families there. They took dry clothing, diapers for the children and also diapers for some of our elderly who had been evacuated.

Dr. Carlos came and helped with several people who were sick.  One of them,  Camillo, who has a stall in the market, where we purchase a lot of our goods, was very ill.  Susie was able to get the doctor to his house.  A few hours later, Camillo received the news that his 58yr old mother had died.  He was too sick to get out of bed but he tried , he wanted to walk up the mountain, through the mudslides to be with his family.  But his wife managed to get him back into bed.  His brothers were calling him, berating him for not coming to be with the family to sit all night with their mother's coffin.  But his wife held strong and told them that she would not let her husband risk his life.

His mother died from complications of diabetes.  

We also made sure that we had food supplies for the next few days to help families. We rushed to the market and bought 35 cartons eggs and the last five 100 lb bags of corn that were available.    We also bought water which was hard to come by.   We are very grateful for all the water filters that have been purchased for families. It is times like these that the water filters are even more valuable.    With both roads blocked coming into Panajachel, we don't know when the next food or water deliveries will be possible.   The road to Solola will probably be open sooner for foot traffic.  There is a huge boulder that has come down.  Absolutely enormous. 

We had two visitors, M.J. and Ray Finken who had scheduled to leave yesterday to be able to catch their flight this morning. 

Victor was coming to pick them up from the city.  He called us and the back road that he had tried to take was blocked at Las Trampas by a mud slide.   We arranged that he would drive as far as he could down the road from Solola and that we would drive as far as we could up the road to Solola, to where the waterfall is...and then we would send staff members to help M.J. and Ray cross the landslide by foot  to the other side where Victor was waiting.   M.J. and Ray were great troopers!   They said fine...we have to make our plane...and off they went.  The adventure of crossing a landslide in the evening dusk will make quite a story when they get home.  

I have been watching the t.v. reports and there is lots of damage in Guatemala.  Many people are in shelters, lots of homes have been lost.  Schools are closed till further notice ( much to one daughter's delight and the other's dismay!). 

The good news is that we have not had reports of mudslides in San Antonio Palopo. We called yesterday and apart from being very wet....there had been no reports of serious damage so far.  

The lake is also rising.  A lot of the docks are going under water.  One of our staff members from San Juan has a house close to the lake....he says that his house has only feet to go before it will be in the lake water.  

Our own house, which many of you have visited, was not in danger yesterday.  We had to evacuate our house last year during Tropical Storm Agatha.  We lost part of the house , the wall, the outside apartment , the bathroom, but the main house was left standing and in good shape.   But we are now on the river's edge. We were fortunate that the river was diverted yesterday ...this was caused by the construction that has been happening, the govt. is building a wall....but we don't know how long it will take or how far it will go.  But for the moment, the river being diverted , saved our house.   We have the carpentry workshop there and also we have storage there for the shipments. 

Thank goodness, we didn't have to move everything yesterday! 

It was heartbreaking to watch other peoples homes go yesterday.  But for the moment, there are no reported losses of life here in Panajachel.   There was a man and two children who fell into the river trying to collect firewood. But we think that they were pulled out alive. 

The river brings down a lot of fallen trees and people rush to the river to collect the firewood. 

There were lots of children helping their families yesterday doing this. 

We have started to have reports of several of our sponsored families losing their homes and we will try to update you as soon as possible. 

It has started raining again, but it is light.  

Fingers crossed that it stays that way!

Thank  you for your support, your good wishes, your prayers and to the folks who were able to send in donations to help with food for the disaster relief.  We really appreciate it.

We are still very much in need of help to be able to help the families who have been affected. Please spread the word.  There are going to be a lot of families who will need help with food.....and some with shelter. 

Sharon Smart-Poage
Panajachel, Guatemala. 

No comments:

Post a Comment