As Hurricane Felix prepared to make landfall on the Caribbean coast of Central America, WFP has announced plans to deploy emergency teams and said it had sufficient regional food stocks to feed almost 600,000 people for one month.
“Right now Hurricane Felix is a moving target and it’s difficult to predict with precision which countries will ultimately bear the impact of its destructive force,” said WFP Deputy Regional
The initial indications are that the potential destructiveness of Hurricane Felix is enormous
WFP Deputy Regional Director Gordana Jerger
Director Gordana Jerger.
“The result is that we have to be extremely flexible in our planning and to expect the worst, we just can’t take chances.”
Not only is WFP preparing to make food stocks available from its development operations in the region, it is also making stand-by arrangements for air and overland transport as well as moving emergency staff into place.
A key operational centre will be in nearby El Salvador where WFP has its sub-regional logistics base as well as in Panama where its regional office is located.
Concern among WFP emergency specialists is particularly high because much of the region has already endured heavy rainfall and there are worries that some areas will suffer from widespread landslides reminiscent of when Hurricane Stan hit in 2005 and which made roads impassable and hampered aid efforts. Of equal concern is that Hurricane Felix may strike Belize City.
“We know that when Belize City was hit by Hurricane Hattie in 1961, that 40 percent of the buildings were completely destroyed because the city is low-lying, surrounded by water on three sides and very vulnerable to storm surge,” Jerger said.
"If Felix keeps going in its projected direction then Belize City could suffer another catastrophe,” he said.
In order to be able to respond to humanitarian needs along the coast of Honduras and Belize, WFP is studying the possibility of using a ship to deliver emergency needs.
At the same time, staff at its country offices in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua is on stand-by for immediate deployment.
Meanwhile, WFP operations in Belize to assist about 5,000 people who lost their livelihoods are a result of Hurricane Dean two weeks ago continue.
The victims, are receiving two-month rations of rice, pulses, High Energy Biscuits (HEBs), vegetable oil and salt to assist them as they rebuild their lives.
“The initial indications are that the potential destructiveness of Hurricane Felix is enormous and could require not only an emergency response but depending on the economic damage, especially in the agricultural, tourism and fishing sectors, perhaps even reconstruction assistance to enable the potential victims to rebuild their lives,” Jerger said. “However, we are all praying they will be spared.”