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Hurricane Felix threatens population centres: WFP "Braced for the worst"

As emergency personnel from WFP began distributing food to victims of Hurricane Felix in northern Nicaragua, the agency expressed deep concern that the violent storm could soon threaten almost 1.5 million people, many in central Honduras.

“Felix appears headed for the capital city of Tegucigalpa and

The Central American region can’t be left to fend for itself during this worsening catastrophe
WFP Deputy Regional Director Gordana Jerger
other population centers and we are rushing reinforcements there in anticipation of heavy rains and floods,” said WFP Deputy Regional Director Gordana Jerger. “We’re braced for the worst.”

Rainfall risk

Jerger said that the threat was no longer the high hurricane winds, but instead -- like Hurricane Mitch in 1998 -- heavy rain, floods and deadly landslides. She noted like Mitch, Felix’s speed has slowed, which brings risk of longer rainfall periods.

Catastrophic flooding made Hurricane Mitch the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in history with almost 11,000 people killed and US$5 billion in damage.

Initially it had appeared Hurricane Felix would be travelling along the sparsely populated northern coast of Honduras towards Belize.

Landfall

However, after it made landfall in northern Nicaragua, it has veered in a north-westerly direction towards the center of Honduras and El Salvador.

The result was that WFP emergency teams deployed in the north suddenly have had to be moved towards the now vulnerable population centres.

After Felix hit northern Nicaragua, WFP staff responded quickly to begin assisting the affected population, initially estimated at about 55,000 people.

A first consignment of 70 metric tonnes of fortified food was handed over for distribution by Government personnel in the coastal communities of Puerto Cabezas and Waspam which suffered heavy damage.

Violence

WFP emergency staff in northern Nicaragua, who witnessed the full violence of the hurricane when the roof of their hotel ripped off by the intense winds, reported that a WFP food aid warehouse was also destroyed.

“We are keenly aware that we are in the beginning phase of the storm and that before this is over, there could well be much greater death and destruction,” Jerger said. “We are also aware that this is just the beginning of the hurricane season and the region could be threatened by additional violent storms.

Of growing concern is the impact of heavy rains if Felix moves across Honduras and into El Salvador where flooding along the Lempa River could affect up to 500,000 people. During Hurricane Mitch, the river flooded tens of thousands of acres of agricultural, bridges were damaged, and thousands of inhabitants were forced to flee their homes.

“We appeal to donor countries and the international community for urgent financial support. The Central American region can’t be left to fend for itself during this worsening catastrophe,” Jerger said.