Eta Leaves Rural Residents Desperate: “We Need Food”

Flooding from the Jicaro river destroyed Luisa Bellorin’s house in Quilali, Nueva Segovia. Courtesy photo

The story of a family from the northern town of Quilali in the department of Nueva Segovia. Luisa Bellorin lost part of her house to the hurricane-swollen Jicaro river.

By Ana Lucia Cruz (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – At noon on November 3rd, there were mere hours left before Hurricane Eta made landfall on Nicaraguan territory. Residents of the Northern department of Nueva Segovia could already foresee “the disaster” that was coming. The Jicaro river, which passes through the town of Quilali, was already flowing slightly higher. The water looked “rough”, and the residents knew that this could only be “the prelude to a rising river.”

Luisa Bellorin from the Playitas community in the Quilali municipality, recalls that moment. She began to “take things out of my house. We knew that the hurricane was coming to this area, and the river was already growing. We could already sense the disaster that was coming, even though no one came to evacuate us.”

The rivers quickly rose

Eta entered Nicaraguan territory, at 3 pm on Tuesday, November 3rd. Shortly thereafter, the rivers in northern Nicaragua began to overflow their banks. Luisa Bellorin’s house, located some hundred meters from the river, was quickly invaded by the current. Just a few hours later, her house was completely inundated. One section of it was dragged away by the current.

“My house, although now there’s almost nothing left of it, was located about a block from the river. So, when it rose, it flooded the house. Once the water level dropped a bit, around 9 at night, the house fell down. One part of it had already been dragged off by the river,” lamented Bellorin.

Luisa works as a maid and has two children, 5 and 13 years old. The house was made of adobe and more than half of it fell down due to Eta. Luisa is now staying at a neighbor’s place.

Luisa now intends to seek help from the National System for the Prevention, Mitigation and Attention to Disasters (Sinapred). She also plans to go the mayor’s office “to see if they can help us”. She wants to be relocated, even though she’s lived close to the river for the last six years. “I don’t want to put my children at risk again,” she emphasizes.

The only thing Luisa wants now is “a small place where I can go with my children. If nothing else, a parcel of land. Then I could see what kind of shack I can put up.  We were left with no food, we have nothing. We’re living from charity,” she says. Bellorin receives a monthly salary of 4,000 cordobas, approximately $113 US dollars. She adds that her “boss” helps her with food. There’s nothing else she can do but wait, because the disaster left her with no resources at all.

It hadn’t flooded since Mitch

Daniela Valenzuela is a community leader in Quilali. The extensive flooding they saw on November 3rd, “hadn’t been seen since Hurricane Mitch (in 1998)” she noted. Due to the recent Hurricane Eta, the Jicaro river “flowed right into most of the nearby neighborhoods.”

Valenzuela’s friends and neighbors have confirmed the specific neighborhoods that were flooded by the Jicaro river. These were: La Pimienta, Leonardo González and the community of Playitas where her family cultivates a plot of land. There, she said, almost everything was under water, and many residents, like herself, also lost their crops.

“I live in town, but I have land in Playitas. The river flowed aggressively into that area. On the 3rd (of November), I went over to look around 6:30, and the current was strong. We lost some crops, but not the house, because it’s on high ground,” she explained.

Valenzuela complained that no Sinapred officials arrived to evacuate the families living near the banks of the river. She assured that many “saved themselves, because they left their homes on their own.”

“There were no loudspeaker announcements, nothing. They didn’t come to all of the neighborhoods. They went to some places, but they didn’t come where they were needed. We weren’t informed. People found out on their own, and that’s how they took care of themselves,” Daniela said.

Town of Murra “flooded” and “incommunicado”

Murra is a small municipality of about 1,000 in the northern department of Nueva Segovia. Town mayor Francisco Herrera, a member of the Liberal party, told Confidencial the municipality had been gravely affected. However, they haven’t received any help, either from the central government or from Sinapred.

He pointed to the “Fidel Ventura” neighborhood, which was almost totally flooded when the Murra River overflowed its banks. There’s a bridge there that’s normally used to reach a nearby community, El Rosario.

“For 24 hours, we were completely cut off from El Rosario, and from El Jicaro. Thanks to the efforts of the population and the Mayor’s office, we were able to clear the town area. We worked until midnight on the third, we cleaned up and managed to clear the roads open. By [November] 4th, the town center was cleared, clean and in contact,” Herrera assured. Nonetheless, some twenty homes were damaged.

In addition, the mayor added, “there’s still a lot of information to be gathered from the [rural] communities. We know the condition of the roads is disastrous, and that there was damage to homes near the rivers. But we still haven’t received any first-hand information from our community leaders.”

Mayor Herrera emphasized the support provided by the Catholic Church and Protestant pastors in aiding the families impacted by flooding.  He also noted that some police and army members have “supported” them. They helped organize some of the meetings focused on attending to the needs of the Murra residents.

Jalapa access roads “obstructed” and “crops destroyed”

Jalapa, a much larger municipality on the Honduran border, also suffered extensive damage. Feminist and community leader Maria Elena Rivera stated that the main damage came from the rains and flooding. Access roads were flooded, and both crops and grass for grazing cattle were destroyed.

Teotacacinte, right at the border, was one of the rural communities affected by the Poteca River, when it overflowed.

Maria Elena explained that the bridges connecting the community of El Carbon in the municipality were “covered in water”. Fortunately, none collapsed. Meanwhile, in the town itself, a stream overflowed and flooded several streets. The community of La Garita that historically suffers from flooding was inundated. Equally affected was the Libano community, where the wind tore the rooves off of two houses.

According to Rivera, community leaders are urgently requesting help from the authorities. The latter merely arrived to get a registry of what happened.  As of yet, they haven’t offered any response.

Read more from Nicaragua here.