Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bishop leads UN mission in Guatemala

Joe Bishop left Gibraltar at the weekend for Guatemala to lead a team of United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination experts who have been deployed to the region to assist the Government of Guatemala and the UN in organising coordination of international emergency relief response, to the areas affected by this week’s heavy rains and mud slides as the result of Tropical Storm Stan which has swept havoc through Central America and Mexico.

Colleagues of Joe and expert members of the UN Teams are already at work in El Salvador on floods and volcanic eruptions and in Pakistan as the result of Saturday’s earthquake.

Joe leads a team of experts from Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Panama, Nicaragua and Norway which will be establishing an On-site Operations Coordination Centre in Guatemala City and conducting damage and needs assessments in the affected regions.

In Guatemala, tropical depression “Stan” caused torrential rains, which triggered flooding and landslides in the coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean. The torrential rainfalls and subsequent overflow of rivers and mudflows affected much of the country including the Departments of Escuintla, Jutiapa, Santa Rosa, San Marcos, and the capital Guatemala City. The death toll amounts to 508 persons and over 51,000 have been forced to take up emergency accommodation in shelters. It is expected that as rescue teams reach some of the 118 communities which remain isolated and cut-off by landslides the death toll could exceed 1,000.

The Government of Guatemala has launched an international appeal for assistance for the amount of USD 76 millions (approx £43 million) to be used over 30 days to provide humanitarian aid to the 104,000 affected population in 370 communities, funds will also be diverted for urgent repairs to the road and telecoms infrastructure in support of aid distribution.

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