Mitch termed Central America's disaster of the century
Death toll climbs toward 11,000; more than 1 million homeless
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Web posted at: 11:16 p.m. EST (0416 GMT)
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (CNN) -- Honduras and Nicaragua are continuing their struggle to recover from Hurricane Mitch, which Honduran President Carlos Flores is calling his country's worst disaster of the century.
"We have 75 percent ... of our major infrastructure either destroyed, damaged or torn apart. Our agriculture is in shambles. All of our major crops, our export products ... gone," Flores said.
"This is something that happens once in a century," Flores said. "But this is the only country that we have, so we have to pick it up, and we will."
Jimmy Carter: May take 15 years to recover
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who toured the area Friday, said the devastation is so severe that it may take Honduras and Nicaragua 15 years to recover. He urged the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to forgive the countries' debts and said he would push U.S. officials to increase disaster aid.
"Seen from the air, it is very clear that this disaster is worse than the earthquake of 1972," Carter said, referring to a quake that killed 5,000 Nicaraguans. "I have known other cases of disaster, and I know the worst is yet to come -- cholera and dengue."
The first reports of a cholera outbreak came Friday, when the Guatemalan health ministry reported 25 cases. In Nicaragua and Honduras, officials have been burying corpses in mass graves or cremating them, hoping to head off epidemics.
Chiquita lays off Honduran banana workers
In a blow to an economy already reeling, Chiquita Brands' Honduran subsidiary announced it was laying off all of its 7,800 workers at banana plantations for at least a year.
The subsidiary, Tela Railroad Co., one of the nation's largest private employers, estimated that its plantations suffered $200 million in damage and won't be able to reach pre-storm production levels until 2001.
Food, fuel being rationed
The death toll in Honduras from Hurricane Mitch has risen to almost 7,000 people, and another 11,000 are missing. At least 1 million people are homeless, water is in short supply, and both food and fuel are being rationed.
As the death toll climbed steadily toward 11,000 across devastated parts of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, Mitch became the most destructive Atlantic storm since The Great Hurricane of 1780, blamed for 22,000 deaths in the eastern Caribbean.
Nicaraguan officials said Mitch left 20 percent of the population homeless and that it will cost an estimated $1 billion -- half the nation's annual economic output -- to rebuild what was destroyed.
"We are told by fishermen that the stench of death near the coast is sickening," Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman said in an interview with Mexican broadcaster Televisa.
By Friday, the official death count was nearly 7,000 in Honduras; 3,800 in Nicaragua; 239 in El Salvador; 228 in Guatemala; nine in Mexico; and three each in Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica.
Appeals made for more supplies
Relief workers from the entire storm-hit area have appealed for food, medicine and other emergency aid.
"At this moment, we are in need of canned foods, milk for babies in liquid form or powered form, and water -- clean drinking water," Honduran first lady Mary Flores told CNN.
"We're in need of medicines because we have a lot of respiratory problems, also fungal infections. We are very worried about epidemics breaking out. We're in need of temporary tents to get these people out of shelters," Flores said. "We have 500 to 600 people in one shelter, and this facilitates the spread of ... diseases or epidemics."
Additional emergency relief was pledged Friday, a day after the United States and Mexico made an emergency appeal for a global effort.
Taiwan donated $2.6 million in hurricane relief to the four nations -- Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala -- with which it has diplomatic ties.
Britain sent two more Royal Navy ships to help with search-and-rescue operations and to help move storm victims to safety.
French mining experts were en route to Nicaragua to help remove land mines unearthed by floodwaters.
Mexico was sending food, water and medicine to Honduras.
The United States pledged 600 rescue workers, 19 helicopters and 120 tons of supplies.
On Thursday, President Clinton authorized nearly $70 million in aid: $30 million for recovery efforts in Nicaragua and Honduras; $20 million in food and nutritional assistance; and $16.3 million worth of medicine and equipment. The United States previously sent $3.7 million to the area.
Familes near Lake Managua begin to rebuild
On Friday, skies over Managua buzzed with helicopters and cargo planes coming in to deliver aid.
Near Lake Managua, families whose homes were destroyed by floods are building a new town, called Nueva Vida or New Life, on a field near Ciudad Saninois given to them by the government.
Using sticks of lumber, sheets of plastic and pieces of tin, they have begun to build makeshift houses. The government has promised to deliver electricity and running water.
Correspondents Lucia Newman, Harris Whitbeck and Reuters contributed to this report.
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