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 mudslides

10 octubre
It was raining hard most of last week, it’s been very wet this fall due to all the tropical storms. We had no school last Thursday - all Guatemalan schools were closed, and there were some small mudslides along the road to school. In other places around Guatemala however, there were some catastrophic effects from the relentless rain.

The mudslides have been treacherous - the hills are quite dramatic here, and in many places there has been widespread deforestation, trees cleared for farming, so there's nothing to hold them... Massive slides and damage near places I have visited - one town (this story you may have seen on the international news), Panabaj, above Santiago Atitlan, around the lake, was totally covered in 40ft of mud, an estimated 1,400 people are missing and believed buried, all rescue people could see was the tops of street lights and trees. It took some time for a serious rescue attempt to reach them – roads are washed out, the mud is still wet so it’s not safe to stand on it to dig (with just hand tools, no heavy equipment), and the stench of bodies has made it next to impossible to excavate the town. This town suffered a massacre of 13 people during the civil war, so they are wary of any military presence and are refusing their entry to the area. The authorities have decided to declare it a mass grave.

I spent Saturday afternoon sorting and bagging clothes and shoes. A group of us drove to the Red Cross center downtown in Zone 1 – they said they had enough volunteers, so we went on to Conred the national emergency center and 8 of us worked there, some checking medicines for expiration dates, some putting together bags of food, clothes or personal hygiene supplies. The school is collecting food supplies, I stopped to buy some cases of canned beans and maseca (corn flour for making tortillas, requested items, plus water) and brought them in Monday. There are thousands of people displaced, it's tragic. And the poorest are the ones most affected, the indigenous people in remote villages who already have next to nothing.

We had just been discussing at school that the best way to "help" the areas affected by hurricanes was to act locally, and there is plenty of opportunity and need to do that.

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