Have you ever heard the «Choluteca Bridge» metaphor, which is often used to describe some marvelous technical achievement? In 1930, in Honduras, a sturdy, solid bridge was built across the Choluteca River, capable of withstanding even a hurricane. When Hurricane Mitch hit the city in 1998, the Choluteca Bridge survived. But another problem arose – the hurricane shifted the riverbed and destroyed the roads leading to the bridge. What once seemed like a masterpiece of modern construction became useless. Read further to know more interesting facts about this natural disaster.
In late October of 1998, a tropical cyclone hit Central America and devastated Nicaragua and Honduras. This natural disaster, that took away hundreds of thousands of lives and caused damages to several states. The Atlantic Ocean over its history saw two of the most horrible hurricanes, first, the deadliest one was theGreat Hurricane of 1780, and the second was Hurricane 1998.
On October 21, 1998, a tropical low-pressure area formed south of the Caribbean archipelago. Within 24 hours it became a tropical storm, gradually intensifying and finally, the storm was named by meteorologists as the hurricane.
For the next few days, its behavior was calm. That all changed when Mitch changed direction and went northeast. By October 26, the wind began to blow with such force that the hurricane was given the maximum hazard rating. Unfortunately, it didn’t weaken for long, causing a lot of problems for the regions that were unluckily in Hurricane Mitch path.
On October 27, the hurricane chose Honduras and Nicaragua as its first victims. Having vented its fury there, leaving thousands of people homeless and destroying cities, the uninvited guest somewhat calmed down and swept over Guatemala and El Salvador, pelting them just with torrential rains and strong winds.
Hurricane Mitch track continued on October 31, when Mitch became interested in the Mexican Gulf, reaching the USA. The Florida State and its coasts faced a tropical storm of moderate strength. On November 9 hurricane approached the British Isles as a remnant of its former power, which was considered no longer a threat. It can be stated that in this case, the United States of America was lucky since the hurricane made a full impact off the coast of Central America and destroyed cities and villages of Nicaragua and Honduras.
When the hurricane started, it had the 1st category of the Saffir-Simpson scale, however, reaching Honduras, the Hurricane Mitch category updated to the 5th stage. Honduras had no place that had not been affected by the storm. There were about 5,000 human casualties, an estimated 12,000 wounded, and 8,000 missing. The survivors suffered from a lack of food, medicine, and drinking water. Under such conditions, as usual, numerous diseases spread: malaria, dengue fever, cholera, etc. Little remained of the country’s infrastructure: most roads and bridges had been destroyed, as had airports. Towns were flooded and aid to victims was delayed due to a lack of helicopters and suitable water transport. Almost 70% of the entire agricultural crop was lost: storage facilities for coffee, a major export product, and vast fields of crops were destroyed. The damage was estimated at $1 billion (a huge amount for a small and poor country).
The northeast of Nicaragua was the second-largest Hurricane Mitch affected area, where several thousand people were killed. More than 20% of the population was more or less affected. The heavy rainfall caused the volcanic Lake Casita to overflow its shores and flood the neighboring villages with streams of liquid mud, causing a couple of thousand victims plus the overall Hurricane Mitch death toll. There was so much mud that in some places people could not move. The villages and cities lacked water and food, and disease spread rapidly. The country lost its crops. The number of people left homeless exceeded 700,000.
El Salvador and Guatemala met already a weakened hurricane, which was the biggest win for those countries, as they were not so badly damaged. The death toll was about 375 and 60,000 people were evacuated because of the rains. The bulk of the crops were destroyed, as well as much of the coffee and other crops. Thanks to the fact that El Salvador and Guatemala could somehow prepare themselves for this deadliest hurricane and save much of infrastructure and agriculture.
Such devastating consequences of the hurricane are explained firstly by the fact that it could not be identified in time, despite the available technical means. Mitch’s strength astounded the specialists. Poor countries of Central America have no opportunity to be ready and to protect their citizens from this disaster. The outcome of this tragedy is 11,374 deaths (Hurricane Mitch total fatalities).
Upon learning of the tragedy, the international community offered assistance to the affected states in delivering food, water, and medical supplies. Former U.S. President D. Bush (senior) accompanied the humanitarian cargo to Honduras. Many countries, including the United States, Mexico, England, Spain, Russia, and others, allocated funds for the reconstruction of settlements affected by the hurricane.
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