THIS ISSUE IS ABOUT HURRICANE PAULINE:
All of you received the first news we had about the aftermath of Paulina. The followup is both better and worse.
First, the “better”: Nobody we know has been reported dead, and no-one was injured more than superficially. Our young friend Cipriano and his sister found their family in a shelter in Pochutla, some suffering from cut feet from running to escape the flash flooding, but otherwise o.k. Help is being organized at every level from international to local, and the process of rebuilding has already begun. The response to our appeals for Pina Palmera has been generous and timely.
The phone and power lines appear to have been mostly restored in Puerto Escondido and Pochutla, although power is still lacking in Zipolite. Paul Cleaver estimates that PE will be ready for tourism by week’s end. The road between Salina Cruz and Pochutla has been extended to PE and includes Puerto Angel and Zipolite.
Now, the “worse”: the lagoon at Chacahua is reported to have been destroyed. The loss of life in the mountains inland from the Oaxaca coast is beginning to be reported, and it is higher than had been expected. In Pochutla, the largest town in the area, fighting has broken out between the PRI and PRD factions over who gets to distribute the goodies (although Zipolite appears to be free from this). Cholera, dengue, and other insect-borne diseases are beginning to be noted.
Today there was a meeting at Casa Colonial, where some of the local gringos who have been supporting Pina Palmera got a chance to talk to Ana Johanson the directora. We were able to report to her that our fundraising efforts are meeting with success. As well, we have gathered up plumbing, a generator, a pump, a barrel of chlorine, and other essentials for the provision of drinking water, the first priority. The first two trucks loaded with supplies and workers left today, and another should be on its way tomorrow.
Ana has assured us that there will be no “stockpiling” at Pina Palmera; that anything they receive that they do not need immediately will be distributed to the neighborhood.
The balance: favorable. More good than bad. It’s a long road ahead, but the first steps are being taken.
I have received the following message, which I pass along for your edification:
David Grant, a Swedish graduate student doing his PhD thesis on local self-help at Pina Palmera, writes:
I dont’ know if any of you heard of Pauline, but it was no cliff-hanger. Everyone lost everything. I managed to save my computer and a guitar and some clothes and a shortwve radio. I lost my car, my trailer, my research resource books, my tapes of previous interviews, and a good deal of spirit. But my friends here lost their homes (well I did too in a way, I’m homeless now) But most of the buildings at Pina Palmera as well as nearly all the buildings in Zipolite were destroyed.
It came without warning, although a couple people later said they knew all about it, but they forgot to inform the people. It started about 12 noon, I was writing email when the power went off, which is not an unusual thing here when it rains. So I shut down the computer and laid down to rest. During the last few weeks, when strong winds came they would blow heavy coconuts through the air and hit my trailer, it worried me at first, because I parked my trailer specifically so I wouldn’t be directly underneath them. I did [not] take in account the wind.
Wednesday we had a big wind, gauged at 180 mph/gusts ave 160. I will take an eearth quake over a hurricane anyday, at least it does its damage and leaves. This had to escalate and keep you guessing. I woke up from my nap and went to the cocina [kitchen] for something to eat,while I was there the wind suddenly became violent, There was only me and another swedish volunteer in the cocina, so we scarfed and headed back to our abodes. On my return I discovered a palm tree had blow down and cut through my trailer like a knife – smashing the section where my head was not five minutes before. I packed up some things and headed for one of the other building to ride it out; it didn’t want to be ridden. It bucked. Hard.
All the buildings with thatched roofs had collapsed and blown away. I was in the special ed building, with solid cement walls and cieling, but with on mosquitoe screens for windows. THe water blew everywhere in a cold mist. shot from a gun.
The flood came, the water suddenly, in a very few minutes rose over ten feet, We had to stand on tables to get above it, kids and bigs people were screaming, kids in wheel chair were in water up to the chests.(the speecial ed building is built seeral feet above th surrounding area. But it wasn’t high enough. after a bout twenty minutes the water broke through the sea and began to recede. (my trailer survived the hurricane and the palm tree, but the flood filled it like a fish bowl destroying evrything inside, all my notes, interview tapes cloths, (I saved my computer by bringing with me to the special ed building and putting it up near the ceiling on a shelf.)
The flash flood left us an island, across the way we could barely see the others in the office, on higher ground, Someone managed to fight their way across fifty yards or so of the brown water (it looked like the scene of the garbage dump in Star Wars, with all the garbage swirling about) Linked garden hoses made a tether so people could begin to be transported across. The water was still up to my chest, I’m 6’2″ so that a lot of water when you’re carrying kids and trying to keep your balance. As one fellow said, “This is why we have hydrotherapy training!” Luckily we didn’t have to use any of our life saving skills.
It’s a couple days now since the huricane. We rode in Humvees a day ago with the army taking all the kids an their families, 65 people signed in, to the hospital where we slept in the hall way, the army feeding everyone. Now we are trying to repair the special ed building, the only standing building other than the office and a storeroom. There is mud three inches thick cover the floor. All the cabinets with clothes have fallen over, it looks like a bomb was dropped on the place. My trailer acted as a dam, and became wedged between a tree on one side and debris on the other. My car floated up with the flood and came to rest like the ark on top of a bunch of fallen palm trees.
The roads are broken and all the power lines are down, along with trees blocking access. After a couple of days, people cleared the way, using machetes, no FEMA here or army corps of engineers, everything is done by hand. After the first few days of people attending to their own destroyed homes, they are beginning to work on the public areas, gathering wood and leaves and anything that will burn. So now smoke fills the air from many ifferent bonfires.
The first night we all went into the near by remaining homes, twenty to a room where I was, I didn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep. Not in a chair very well. Now things are getting organized. gifts of food are arriving. I found the battery in my trailer work, so we have lights in the little house I’m staying at now, which doubles as a storeroom for the incoming supplies.
I’m just trying to give you a brief picture of what this disaster was like. I been through the LA earthquake, a coup in Chad, but this is the worst.I’m exhausted from all the picking up, cuttingaway and branches with a machete, struggling with a generator that doesn’t want to run. A couple eggs, rice and frijoles and a warm beer hit the spot, but it sure would be nice to order out for pizza. I don’t know what I’ll do next, I don’t really think my trailer is salvageable, the car, who knows? But now I certainlly have more to write about, observing how a community based rehab organization survives a disaster. It a whole new aspect of this study.
The winds gusted up to 200km during the hurricane, estimates are of 200 dead or missing. We didn’t lose a single child, although we lost everything else. And watching the community pitch in and rebuild is inspiring. I feel very much a part, more now than ever. I’ll have had some good emergency training and experience now! But seriously, we are in incredibly bad shape here, food and neccessites are coming in, but all our wheelchairs, the computers I wrote about earlier, all the therapy equipment, adaptive devices, everything is gone. So please, if you can assist Pina Palmera, contact the Slade Children Foundation in Wash. DC and they will aid you in helping us.
This ends the report for now. More as things develop. Stan