A year after Hurricane Mitch, Central America still struggling
October 27, 1999
POSOLTEGA, Nicaragua (CNN) -- A year after what many deem the worst natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere this century -- Hurricane Mitch -- aid organizations are still struggling to repair the damage and restore normalcy.
And thousands of residents of the Central American region ravaged by the storm -- in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala -- are still mired in the aftermath.
On October 26 and 27, 1998, the massive storm roared into the region with sustained winds of 180 mph. More than 10,000 died in the flooding. An estimated 1.5 million were left homeless, and the livelihoods of many more were destroyed.
The winds were among the strongest recorded in the region this century. Damage was estimated at $6 billion -- one-seventh of the region's gross domestic product.
Half a million remain in shelters
A year later, nearly half a million people remain in temporary shelters, officials say.
Some of the losses have been made up. Imported fertilizer has helped produce a good harvest. Top priorities are ensuring good drinking water, sanitation and health care, as well as preventative measures in case of further disasters.
"We are providing a cleaner source of water to avoid any health problems, and in the second instance we're providing for the needs of women and children so they have access to water all day," said Mark Peters of the American Red Cross.
Food is still being distributed by river to some of the most remote communities, since many roads and bridges still have not been repaired a year after being destroyed.
Nancy Beaudoir of the Red Cross said completion of 222 food-for-work projects -- of a planned total of 253 -- is near. These include such projects as rebuilding latrines, reconstructing bridges and rebuilding schools.
Officials say much more must still be done to repair the infrastructure in the most damaged regions. During a visit to the area last March, President Clinton pledged nearly $1 billion in assistance.
CNN's Mark Armstrong and Reuters contributed to this report.
Clinton pledges aid to hurricane-ravaged Nicaragua
Washington Office on Latin America
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