Early last month, amid an unusually active hurricane season, Nate became the fastest-moving tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. Roaring northwestward at 28 mph, it resulted in 45 deaths across Central America and parts of the U.S. and could cost potentially more than $1 billion in damages.
On October 5, Tropical Storm Nate made landfall on the coastline of Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, on the heels of an already extreme rainy season in the region. For over 24 hours, the storm clobbered Nicaragua with heavy rains and winds. Several hundred homes were destroyed, thousands were displaced and much of the water supply is still not potable today. But few outlets, including Nicaragua’s own government, have provided extensive coverage of Nate’s aftermath.
“Almost everyone here was affected by Nate,” says Sarah Mauldin de Baldovinos, a disaster relief worker living in Tola, one of the hardest-hit rural areas. “The very few people whose homes were not affected have been actively helping others, whether it be by mucking the mud out of their houses or finding them a mattress to sleep on.”
According to some Nicaraguan residents on the ground, recovery efforts there have been largely grassroots. “The government has delivered some food as well as gas stoves to most communities,” Mauldin de Baldovinos says. However, “the truth is that there are very few recent news or statistics updates, even from the Nicaraguan government.”
Nicaragua’s National System for Prevention, Mitigation and Attention to Disasters (SINAPRED) has updated its website with some of the government’s relief efforts, including a plan to deliver more than 5,000 portable toilets and 10,000 packages of roofing materials to areas with the worst flooring.
According to Mauldin de Baldovinos, power has been restored to most areas, although some remote communities are still in the dark. In Tola, an area that depends on water from a system of hand-dug wells, communities came together to pump the wells and clean them as much as possible.
While many wells have been cleared of mud and debris, the water is still not drinkable, Mauldin de Baldovinos says, especially because the water refilling the wells is coming from the saturated ground. “Many, many wells remain contaminated but cannot be cleaned until the dry season, as there is risk of the well walls caving in as mud (and pressure) is removed.”
Working with community leaders in the most affected areas, residents have organized to launch GoFundMe campaigns and other donation efforts to bring relief to communities hit hardest. Mauldin de Baldovinos’ non-profit organization, Missions of Grace, launched a GoFundMe that has raised more than $19,000. The money is being used to purchase and deliver mattresses, stoves, gas tanks, water barrels, clothes, shoes, and water filters.
As relief efforts continue, life in Nicaragua and other regions devastated by Nate is slowly returning to “normal,” American expat and volunteer worker Susanna Chase wrote in a recent blog post: “Kids are back in school. Buses are running again. Adults are back to work. Fatigue has settled in for everyone helping in the efforts...we want to make sure it’s clear that each dollar, each re-post on social media, and each message sent goes a long way.”
According to a new 500-page collaborative report on climate change published by 13 federal agencies last week, mounting evidence suggests that climate change is to blame for the upward trend of hurricanes in the North Atlantic since the 1970s.