EI members and emergency workers in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are struggling to get aid to communities cut off by Tropical Storm Agatha which battered the region over the weekend.
Rescuers are digging through mud and rubble in search of dozens of people still missing after landslides destroyed entire communities. Early estimates suggest that 180 people have been killed, most of them in Guatemala, and more than 100,000 people are homeless.
Although the storm has passed more rain is forecast and officials warn that swollen rivers continue to pose a risk of flooding and landslides. All three countries have declared emergencies in an attempt to increase immediate aid and resources and prevent the spread of dengue and malaria from the stagnant water.
From the aftermath it is clear that Guatemala has been the worst-hit. In the capital, Guatemala City, a giant sinkhole opened up, reportedly swallowing a number of buildings. EI member organisation, the Union of Education Workers of Guatemala (STEG), was among those badly affected as its offices in the capital were flooded, causing it considerable damage and the loss of all IT equipment.
EI is working to provide emergency assistance to STEG in order to help it get off the ground, to reorganise and support its teacher members, and the wider humanitarian effort. A number of indigenous Indian communities also felt the full force of powerful mudslides in the department of Chimaltenango, a province west of Guatemala City, and many there are still missing. Tens of thousands of others are living in temporary shelters, either because their homes were destroyed or because they were evacuated from areas at risk of flooding.
The country’s infrastructure has been badly affected as artery roads are blocked, and bridges have collapsed. This has hampered rescue efforts by land and made it difficult for aid agencies to reach the worst hit areas.
Guatemala’s devastation comes on the back of week which saw the eruption of the Pacaya volcano which started last Thursday and has already hindered aid efforts.
In El Salvador, at least 20 villages were flooded after the Lempa River overflowed. Due to this situation, all primary and secondary schools and universities across the country have been closed since last Tuesday.
EI will provide more detail on the situation of teachers and students in the region as we learn more.