Geneva – The United Nations said Friday that at least 90 people have died and more than 600,000 people have been left homeless in the torrential rains deluging Central America.
The spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, Elizabeth Byrs, described the situation as very serious and said that these figures, which are only estimates, could foreseeably increase in the coming days if the rains continue.
Heavy rains are expected to persist in the region, Byrs said, adding that OCHA is cooperating with the region's governments and with agencies working in the affected countries to determine the volume of financial aid required.
She noted that the situation in El Salvador is particularly disastrous, with 250,000 people affected by flooding and with some 50,000 displaced to provisional shelters and in need of humanitarian assistance.
Since these are the worst rainstorms El Salvador has seen since 1932, Byrs said that at the moment $50,000 in emergency aid has been approved for it and a process to seek additional funds is underway.
The OCHA spokeswoman added that Guatemala, with 154,000 affected and more than 5,000 people living in temporary shelters, has declared a nationwide state of public disaster but has not asked for international aid, even though $50,000 is being sought to deal with the country's most pressing needs.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs sounded the alarm that at least 10 rivers are on the point of overflowing, and said it is following closely the situation of the Santiaguito and Fuego volcanoes after detecting intense seismic activity there.
According to data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres) of cropland in Guatemala have been damaged for an economic loss estimated at 40.8 million quetzals ($5.2 million).
In Nicaragua, the number of homeless stands at about 134,000, with serious harm done to 13 of the nation's 15 provinces, where more than 9,000 people have found refuge in 100 shelters.
Managua asked for international aid on Sept. 19, after which a U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination, or UNDAC, team arrived in the country for two weeks.
The U.N. also warned that the situation at Lake Managua, now just 43 centimeters (17 inches) from overflowing, makes it necessary to evacuate an additional 3,000 people.
In Honduras, the number of affected has risen to 40,000, with 8,000 people living in shelters, after the government declared a state of emergency on Oct. 16 for the southern part of the country.
The provinces of Choluteca and Valle are the hardest hit, with the many blocked highways impeding the work of aid distribution, Byrs said.
The OCHA spokeswoman recalled that torrential rains have also affected Mexico, where some 92,500 people have been affected, mainly in Tabasco state, and where six of the region's 10 rivers have overflowed.