Other than personal ‘inconveniences’ like being continually cold and damp, there are three really big things to worry about: landslides, flash floods and rivers over-flowing their banks.
Living in the mountains in a country that has been greatly deforested, landslides are an obvious concern. In 2007, the whole community of Brisas del Sol was basically destroyed and 4 people were killed - one person was washed about 5 kilometers down the ravine.
With the earth saturated, there are many areas that are potentially in a path of a landslide. There are always plenty of ‘mini’ landslides along the roadsides: covering the roads with mud, rock and plant debris. Often during a rain such as we have now, vehicles don’t bother to even try to go in or out of the cantons. The fear is a larger collapse and sliding of the hills around us.
You wouldn’t necessarily consider flash flooding to be an issue in an area that is as elevated as we are. But there are lots of lower areas – communities or homes/neighborhoods either below or near ravines. And when it rains here, these ravines as well as most of our streets flood incredibly.
These bigger dangers are what occupy many people’s minds at the same time they are dodging raindrops within their own homes. Not everybody certainly, but a great number of families live in homes that seriously lack ‘tightness’ in their construction.
We are technically in “orange alert” status. We have the police patrolling the streets – especially last night when we were without electricity. The Commandos and Civil Protection committees are also at the ready. Schools in the department of Usulután (where Berlín is located) as well as many coastal areas have been suspended until the rains subside.
We lost power at about 3 p.m. on Tuesday. And it finally came back about 4 p.m. Wednesday. For us the temporary lack of power is no real tragedy. We cook with propane, so we can cook and therefore eat. We normally have very little in the refrigerator and freezer so we don’t lose too many foodstuffs. The biggest inconvenience is that we can’t communicate via internet. And our phones worked only sporadically. Apparently I could send texts, but no texts came into my phone in response. I felt a bit cut off from the world!
We spent a lot of that unconnected 24 hours talking, reading and working the ‘Last Supper’ jigsaw puzzle that C.J. gave us last year. It was like a mini vacation (if you could take away nagging fears).
The talking part was good. Blanca reminded me that La Geo (the Geothermal plant) takes advantage of all this rain to clean out their equipment – and letting the polluted (BADLY polluted) waters flow down the hills. This is a manner to mask this task. But no one is fooled. And people suffer from this.
She also told us that it is particularly dangerous to be out on the streets when there is no electricity at night – the thieves come out.
Then there is the hydro-electric dam on the Rio Lempa: “At 1:00 this afternoon the September 15th dam began discharging water at a rate of 2300 cubic meters per second, just under the 2500 cm/sec the regions levee system can stand. At 4:00 pm the dam began releasing at 3500 cm/sec, and they increased it 5:00 pm 4000 cm/sec” (from the blog: Voices of El Salvador dated Oct. 12, 2011). This discharging of water inundates the coastal areas with even more waters – displacing families and destroying livestock and crops.
Blanca also reminded me of our visit to Rio los Bueyes last year – many people had fish drying on their roofs. This was because the Lempa River overflowed its banks in a big way and flooded fields and homes. And nearly everyone ‘benefitted’ by being the recipients of river fish which then were left behind as the waters receded. I have a feeling there will be more ‘meals in the fields’ soon …
Pray for an easing of the rains. Pray for the safety of those at risk (of any natural disaster anywhere in the world). Pray.