Aereal view of the floods caused by Tropical Storm Eta in San Pedro Sula, Honduras last week. [Photo: Courtesy of AVISTAR]

November 7, 2020 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

Seventh-day Adventist leaders in Honduras are still assessing the needs among its constituents in the northwest region of the country where Hurricane Eta hit hard as a downgraded tropical depression on Nov. 4. The torrential rains caused landslides, rivers to overflow, and flooded entire towns leaving thousands stranded. Eight people have been reported dead.

“We have been trying to evaluate the damages and the current issues that Eta has caused from very early in the day,” said Pastor Adan Ramos, president of the church in Honduras, from his office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras yesterday.  Tropical Storm Eta flooded the city of San Pedro Sula in the northwestern region of the country. The airport and large parts of the city and neighboring communities have been immersed because of the constant rains, he said.

“We just don’t know how many have died for sure because there are so many people way deep in their communities, telephone lines and internet are not functioning and many wait to be rescued by boat or helicopter.”

View of a street on the outer part of San Pedro Sula where the water is not as high and church leaders and volunteers coul dstill access to provide assistance to anyone who needed it. [Photo: Northwest Honduras Conference]

The church has not been able to obtain small boats to assist in the aftermath of Eta. “We won’t know what the exact damage will be until waters subside, but in the meantime, we have been organizing assistance to provide for the needs,” he said. Several undamaged churches and two Adventist schools in San Pedro Sula are functioning as shelters at the moment.

Displaced church members

Many church families have been left homeless and funds are being disbursed to assist those staying in those shelters for now, added Ramos. Church leaders have appealed to the public for food, money and other supplies for displaced families.

“We have lost everything,” said Pati Valeriano a mother of five and a church member of Paraiso Adventist Church in San Pedro Sula. “I was able to escape with my children, with very little from our house and we swam to safety.” There are others who have losted everything too, added. Hours later she spotted the van belonging to the church’s Northwest Conference and Pastor Walter Ciguenza, communication director for the church in Honduras. “Thank you to my church, we need faith and prayers in this situation,” she said.

“These are very difficult times for this whole region,” said Ciguenza, who pastors 12 churches in San Pedro Sula. Eight of the churches he pastors have been flooded, he said. Two days after the storm saw him and other local church looking out for members in need throughout different communities. The two Adventist schools are sheltering 130 persons total combined, he said.Valeriano, her children and their dog are have been staying at one of the two Adventist schools open as shelters.

Pastor Walter Ciguenza, communication director for the church in Honduras (right) guides the children of Pati Valeriano (second from right) into the van belonging to the church’s Northwest Honduras Conference during one of the many rides provided to assist members in finding shelter after losing their homes through the floods on Nov. 5, 2020. ([Photo: Northwest Honduras Conference]

The number of church members in northwest Honduras affected has risen to more than 500, he added.

Hector Gonzalez, a church elder at Jupiter Adventist Church, waited with his family for over 24 hours to be rescued, said Ciguenza. “We were able to get some friends who own a boat to go rescue his parents, siblings, children and the rest of his family to safety, ten in total,” he said. Gonzalez’s family was among the 40 persons on the top floor of his house who were waiting to be rescued. Gonzalez and his family were so excited that they sang a beautiful song in their Garifona dialect praising God for His mercies during Ciguenza’s pastoral visit on Friday evening, Nov. 6.

ADRA’s  initial response

Luis Trundle, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Honduras director, reported that funds have been released thanks to an initial response by ADRA International and ADRA Inter-America to assist 1,500 families with food rations and hygiene kits in the most affected area in northwest Honduras.

A boat rescues 40 persons sheltering at Church Elder Henry Gonzalez’s top floor of his home on Nov. 5, 2020. [Photo: Courtesy of Hector Gonzalez]

“A great concern is the enormous crop losses brought by Eta floods,” said Trundle. “It’s been so difficult with the drought before covid-19, la niña phenomenon and it seems that it just doesn’t end.”

Trundle said that ADRA Honduras signed an agreement with USAid with funds to assist 60 shelters and 1,700 additional families certain sectors in San Pedro Sula.

ADRA Honduras is in talks with other religious organizations to team up for a greater response at a national level, said Trundle.

The church will continue to move to assist those in need in the midst of this aftermath, said Pastor Ramos. “The demand is great for us as a church, but we will continue moving to provide as much assistance as we can to help those in need,” Ramos said.

Hurricane Eta hit neighboring Nicaragua on Tuesday, Nov. 3, as a category 4, causing damage before it was downgraded to Tropical Depression in Honduras on Nov. 4. Damages are still being assessed by the church in Nicaragua and other Central American countries affected last week.

Walter Ciguenza contributed to this report.

For updates on the church’s response in Honduras and other countries in the Inter-American Division territory, visit us at interamerica.org

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