Relief Groups Bolster Hurricane Felix Efforts

Local Christian organizations in Nicaragua and Honduras are stepping up their relief efforts after a devastating hurricane last week left more than 200 people dead or missing and tens of thousands homeless.

Hurricane Felix hit north-eastern Nicaragua last Tuesday as a maximum strength Category-5 storm, with wind speeds of up to 160 miles per hour.

The Atlantic coastal communities of Sandy Bar Bay and Bilwi, also known as Puerto Cabezas, were the worst hit with more than 150,000 people having been affected.

Christian Aid, an agency of the major Christian churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland, is responding through Action by Churches Together (ACT), the international network of church-based agencies that come together to co-ordinate humanitarian response work.

"We are working closely with other ACT members to co-ordinate our response and avoid duplication," explained Neptaly Medina, Christian Aid's emergencies officer for Central America, in a recent report.

After passing through Nicaragua, Felix had swept on through Honduras. The storm weakened over land, but heavy rains still caused flooding and landslides, destroying homes, roads, bridges, drains and crops.

In the northern Honduran province of Cortés, the River Ulúa rose by almost eight meters and broke its banks.

Christian Aid's local partners had been monitoring the river closely, helping with identifying shelters, and organizing emergency evacuations and build flood barriers.

Now these local organizations are distributing food, water, plastic sheeting and mattresses to families who had to flee their homes.

CASM (the Mennonite Social Action Committee), a local organization supported by Christian Aid, has been running disaster preparedness workshops with communities near the River Ulúa for over a year, helping them to set up early warning systems, local risk maps and evacuation plans.

As Felix blew in, CASM provided fuel, rope, waterproof jackets and boots to help with emergency evacuations.

Meanwhile, partners in Honduras began immediate relief efforts by drawing on their reserve funds. Christian Aid will be sending more money to support their continued relief and rehabilitation work over the coming weeks and months.