Hurricane Mitch Case Study

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Hurricane Mitch, 1998

In October 1998 a tropical storm developed to the east of Central America and began moving towards the countries of Nicaragua and Honduras.

As it reached the coast, winds of more than 280 km/h were recorded, and torrential rain caused large areas to be flooded. Roads and bridges were washed away, and in some areas complete villages were destroyed as winds tore down the poor-quality buildings. As rain continued to fall, large areas of land quickly flooded. On steeper slopes, flash-floods and mudslides buried some areas under thousands of tons of mud, rocks and vegetation.

The day after the hurricane, rivers in the area were ten times their normal width, and it was reported that half a million people had lost their homes, many having to be evacuated to safe areas.

The impacts of Hurricane Mitch
Honduras
Final death toll was over 19,000
Many towns completely destroyed.
Schools, roads, bridges and power lines lost.
Over 70% of the year's crops ruined, leading to food shortages.
Around 600,000 people forced to live in makeshift shelters. Nicaragua
Death toll nearly 3000
20% of the population was made homeless.
All main roads out of the capital city was destroyed.
20% of all farms were ruined.

Could the impacts have been reduced?
Honduras and Nicaragua are two of the poorest countries in Central America, and they do not have the money or technology to prepare for hurricanes. However some people have suggested that the disaster was made worse because:

Many towns had no proper storm drains.
Homes were poorly constructed.
Villages were built on steep hills or unstable slopes.
Deforestation may have left slopes bare, increasing the possibility of landslides.

Rebuilding Nicaragua After Hurricane Mitch
After hurricane Mitch, much of Nicaragua was devastated and the country had a number of emergency needs because of:
The threat of disease as a result of damage to the water...
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