July 1st, 2010 | by Chris Hufstader
Hanging bridge over the Rio Chixoy. Photo by James Rodtiguez/Oxfam America
From the hills above the Rio Chixoy, Guatemala, it’s hard to even tell there is a bridge across the river, but it is really there. Getting closer to it confirms its existence: It consists of 12 half-inch steel wires stretched across nearly one thousand feet between the high river banks, with wood slats wired unevenly into place. The entire thing wobbles back and forth, and bounces up and down, so as to make it hard to fit your feet firmly on the wood treads.
You don’t want to look down when walking on a hanging bridge such as this, but you have to in order to ensure your feet don’t just fall between the slats and into the clear space between the wires.
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March 15th, 2010 | by Elizabeth Stevens
Paula Deperla (center) meets with emergency committee members about evacuation routes in Santa Eduviges, El Salvador. Credit: Claudia Barrientos
Elizabeth Stevens is just back from El Salvador, where she was visiting communities affected by severe flooding and landslides brought on by Hurricane Ida in November 2009.
“We didn’t expect this emergency, but we were prepared,” said Paula Deperla.
Deperla is a member of a disaster-response committee trained by Comandos de Salvamento, an Oxfam partner in El Salvador. When heavy rains pounded the region in November, her team swung into action, knocking on doors and calling in the local authorities to assist.
The losses were heavy: eight houses in their community were buried or badly damaged by landslides around the ravine, or barranco, that borders the neighborhood. It was thanks to the quick action of the committee that no one died. Read the rest of this entry »
March 11th, 2010 | by Elizabeth Stevens
Oxfam partners have trained and equipped civil protection groups in nearly 200 Salvadoran communities that are vulnerable to natural hazards like floods and landslides. Photo by Claudia Barrientos
Elizabeth Stevens is in El Salvador, where she’s visiting communities affected by severe flooding and landslides brought on by Hurricane Ida in November. She’ll be blogging about the steps people have taken to prepare for storms.
I arrived in El Salvador last Thursday night, feeling as strange carrying a fleece jacket in the 80-degree heat as I did in Boston wearing flip-flops through the snow squall that ushered me to the airport earlier that day.
My job here is to meet with communities affected by a storm of incredible intensity that struck El Salvador’s central provinces last fall, where 14 inches of rain fell in just four hours. Trees and boulders went crashing down into mountain villages that day, and rivers suddenly grown deeper and wider and more powerful took out everything in their paths.
Back in November, we quickly learned the grim news of losses and death; not so well understood is what was saved.
For months—in some cases years—before the storm, Oxfam had been working with local partners and community leaders to prepare for emergencies like this one. But did the preparedness work? Did it reduce suffering and losses? Did it save lives? This week my Salvadoran colleagues and I are travelling around to some of the hardest-hit communities, listening to survivors tell their stories of what happened.
Read some of those stories here.