Relief Agencies Geared Up to Send Relief to Hurricane-Devastated Guatemala

As the weather improved on Monday, boats and helicopters have started to carry aid to Guatemalan villages isolated for days by flooding and mudslides.

Relief providers are now in high gear to deliver supplies to regions along the Mexican coast that were affected by Hurricane Stan’s devastation last week, especially Guatemala where at least 500 people were killed by the flood and landslides.

As the weather improved on Oct. 10, boats and helicopters started carrying aid to Guatemalan villages isolated for days by the flooding and mudslides.

"Christian Aid, CIEDEG (Conference of Evangelical Churches of Guatemala), DanChurchAid, HEKS (Swiss Interchurch Aid), Lutheran World Federation and Norwegian Church Aid, working together as the ACT Guatemala Forum, are planning to provide food, water, medicines, clothes and hygiene kits to the affected population," Action by Churches Together (ACT) International reported in a statement released Monday.

According to the ACT Guatemala Forum, heavy rains from Hurricane Stan have been lashing the whole Central America region since Oct. 1.

“The rains are the heaviest experienced in the last four years," the forum stated.

More than 900 landslides have already occurred with the most deadly landslides occurring last weekend in the Panabaj and Tyanchaj indigenous communities in the Solola department. In that department alone, around 1,400 people were engulfed by a massive mudslide four kilometers long, ACT reported.

In addition, ten southwestern departments of the Pacific coastal area have been affected – San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Solola, Totonicapan, Suchitepequez, Rethaluhleu, Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez, Huehetenango and Escuintla. ACT noted that the majority of the populations in these departments are comprised of indigenous people living in extreme poverty.

Of the countries affected, ACT has identified Guatemala as the worst in the Central America region. According to CNN, the combination of the normal Central American rainy season and remnants of Hurricane Stan resulted in rivers of mud that flowed down the central Guatemalan highlands.

On Tuesday, Guatemalan authorities called off the search for bodies in Panabaj, about 100 miles west of Guatemala City. CNN reported that Panabaj was declared a danger zone because of health hazards, including the threat of more mudslides.

According to ACT, the Guatemala Forum will back up the relief operation in the most affected communities where other humanitarian aid agencies are not able to cover. It pledges to give priority to the most vulnerable groups - families that have lost their houses and all their belongings, children and the elderly.

"The demographics of the affected areas suggest that more than a third of the victims of this tragedy are children," regional director Nils Kastberg of UNICEF, the U.N. children's aid agency, told CNN.

According to reports, the United States and the United Nations are mobilized to deliver huge aid to the devastated regions.

The United Nations issued a "flash appeal" Monday for about $22 million in aid for Guatemala while UNICEF is seeking almost $6 million for relief in Guatemala and El Salvador, reported CNN.

And on Tuesday, Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department, told CNN that the State had provided more than $250,000 in relief supplies to Guatemala, including hygiene kits, blankets, drinking water and fuel.

ACT also plans to provide assistance in agriculture, housing, water and sanitation, psychosocial activities and environmental recovery in the rehabilitation phase.

The ACT Coordinating Office is sending funds immediately to the ACT Guatemala Forum in advance to a forthcoming appeal to enable forum members to provide emergency assistance.

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