Hurricane Julia Hits Central American Countries as Tropical Storm. Hurricane Julia drenched Central America with torrential rains causing floods and landslides. Assessments of the total regional damages are in the early stages. Julia’s impact has been severe, with reports of significant damages to housing, transportation, agriculture, health and education infrastructure.
Hurricane Julia hit the Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia on Saturday evening, making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane. The National Hurricane Center released a public advisory warning of life-threatening floods and mudslides in Central America and parts of Southern Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and parts of Guatemala.
Hurricane Julia first made landfall on the Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia on Saturday evening. Thousands of Colombians were affected by the floods which caused material damage in coastal municipalities of Riohacha, Uribia and Manaure, department of La Guajira.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro visited the islands of San Andrés and Providencia hit by Hurricane Julia. Petro said some houses were collapsed and the roofs of some 200 houses were ripped off on the islands, adding that the damage will become apparent once the final report is completed.
As Colombia prepared for the incoming storm, the Colombian president called on hotels in the area to provide shelter to vulnerable populations.
Hurricane Julia made landfall in Nicaragua early morning on Sunday October 9th, weakening to a tropical storm as it makes its way west towards the Pacific Ocean. Before its arrival, the government began to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the vulnerable populations in the storm’s path. The director of Nicaragua’s Disaster Response Team, Guillermo Gonzalez, assured that residents in coastal areas had been evacuated, as well as the allocation of emergency supplies to the islands off of the Nicaraguan coast; 9,500 individuals were evacuated and taken to shelters, with the incoming rains posing a threat to vulnerable infrastructures.
As of 10 October, more than 195,150 households are still without power in Nicaragua while some 31,170 people lack access to drinking water. After exiting Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, Julia battered El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala with heavy rains, damaging scores of homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands.
The International Red Cross released a statement highlighting the concern for immigrants making their journey through Central America during this time. Those moving across the countries are at a high risk of experiencing the intense effects of the storm, as temporary settlers in various locations through their paths. Without much knowledge on the surrounding land or available resources, immigrants may be left without notifications that long-term residents in the areas may have in advance of the storm’s arrival.
As of Tuesday morning, extreme floods due to river overflows and landslides have hit vulnerable areas in El Salvador. El Salvador’s Civil Protection department released a statement on October 9, allocating information regarding the mandatory evacuation of directly affected areas as well as the possible incoming damages to the terrain. The website listed the possible conditions that could increase the risk of extreme damage, such as inclined trees, weakened water retention walls and soil erosion.
Various trees throughout the country were reported to have fallen on important highways and roads, with emergency teams responding quickly to the affected areas. In a tweet by the country’s Ministry of National Defense, an update was provided on the removal of fallen debris in major roads. 900 individuals that live in vulnerable zones near Rio Grande de San Miguel were evacuated from the area due to its overflow. The heavy storm also destroyed three major bridges in the country, including one that connects a city of almost 15,000 residents in the city of Dolores in the Cabañas district.
The overflowing and rains have also taken a toll on the agricultural growth of El Salvador’s bean harvest. 75% of El Salvador’s bean harvest has been in peak growth during this time of year, resulting in the loss of 18% of prime agriculture.
Honduras was also faced with extensive flooding after Hurricane Julia made landfall, creating rising river levels throughout the country. The Department of Agricultural Development released a statement expressing the loss of 3 million “quintales” of corn produce, amounting to nearly 331,000 tons of produce. Honduras’ Secretary of Finance has announced an allocation of 30 million dollars to 153 municipalities to address the damages left behind by the storm.
In La Lima, Cortes, many communities of banana farmers have found themselves flooded by the rising levels of the neighboring river Chamalecon. In a statement to Radio Progreso, an Honduran media outlet, reported that the mayor of La Lima is working closely with the affected families to ensure that they receive the necessary resources to stay fed and sheltered.
In Honduras, some 103,960 people have been affected by the passage of Julia, bringing the total population affected by the rainy season to more than 188,300 people. Meanwhile, in neighboring Guatemala some 457,300 people have been affected, adding to the more than 4.8 million already affected by the rainy season in Guatemala.
On October 12, Luis Alfonso Bosch, president of the Guatemalan Chamber of Industry (CIG), listed affected departments as Izabal, Alta Verapaz, Huehuetenango, Quiché, Petén, Suchitepéquez and Zacapa.
“The high levels of precipitation and the overflow of rivers caused 321 incidents in the country. It is reported that 86 schools were affected, 2 hammock bridges, 70 highways, 7 buildings, in addition to several destroyed bridges. The damage to the logistics infrastructure has affected mobility in the country,” he referred.
To which Fanny de Estrada, director of institutional relations of the Guatemalan Association of Exporters (Agexport), added that the construction of more and better infrastructure is a pending agenda in the country, for which she considered that “the damage caused by natural disasters reminds us every time that it is necessary to invest in this area and take advantage of the strength of the public-private partnerships.”
Guatemala Agricultural Damage
José Luis Lux, president of the Ixcán Chamber of Commerce Guild, reported that this municipality is completely cut off; both at the exit to Cobán, Alta Verapaz, and on the route to the border with Mexico. The Northern Transversal Strip was blocked by the overflow of the Chixoy River and the destruction of a wooden bridge in areas of the Lachuá National Park.
Damage in that region includes agricultural crops, which have been flooded. “Regarding the production of corn, the majority of people did not manage to get their harvest; we are talking about micro-region 5, where approximately 5,000 blocks of corn are produced, the third largest producer at the national level,” said Lux, who added that other neighboring communities, such as Playitas, also show crop losses.
En este momento no importan las banderas políticas ni las ideologías, sino la unidad como país. Le pido al @CongresoGuate que apruebe el estado de calamidad que nos permitirá continuar atendiendo a los guatemaltecos. Trabajando juntos saldremos fortalecidos de esta emergencia. pic.twitter.com/Anl3rOiOn1
— Alejandro Giammattei (@DrGiammattei) October 11, 2022
He also stated that trade in that region is totally paralyzed. “You can hardly get anything through. Very little can be moved by boat. I would dare to estimate the damages caused above Q100 million,” he declared.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA), reported that its technicians are still in the field, collecting information on damage to agriculture, although last Sunday it had warned that the greatest damage will be observed in about 246 municipalities across the country
Hurricane Julia Hits Central American Countries as Tropical Storm
Rains and winds pose threats to these Central American countries due to their mountainous terrain, making them susceptible to landslides in the area.
Annually, the rains caused by hurricanes and storms leave hundreds of deaths and millionaire losses of crops and infrastructure in Central America, “a region already marked by poverty,” reports Euronews.
As the region grapples with recovery from tropical storm Julia, Central American organizations have asked the international community for urgent assistance with “climate financing to increase resilience and implement adaptation actions.”
This will allow this region of nearly 50 million inhabitants, “to face the magnitude of the disasters caused by climate change and accompany national and regional efforts to address the humanitarian, social, economic and infrastructure impacts causing tropical storm Julia.”
This was stated in a joint statement by the General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System (SICA), the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat (SIECA), the Executive Secretariat of the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (SE-CCAD), the Executive Secretariat of the Coordination Center for the Prevention of Disasters in Central America and the Dominican Republic (SE-Cepredenac) and the Executive Secretariat of the Regional Committee for Hydraulic Resources (CRRH).
Kimberly Martinez is an undergraduate student pursuing a double major in Political Science and Urban studies at the University of California, Irvine. She started her journey with Latina Republic as an Immigration Writer, highlighting the stories of the Latinx community in the United States and the various challenges they face, extending the outreach of her stories to cover immigrant communities of other regions around the world. Kimberly has also served as a tutor for Latina Republic’s Adelante Tutor Program, working with students of various grade levels that come from migrant families. Much of her work attempts to uplift the voices of those within the communities, which is something that Latina Republic has always emphasized throughout the various programs and stories they support. She hopes to continue uplifting the voices of migrant communities and finding more ways to address issues alongside those directly affected, whether it be through direct outreach or other channels of support.