Nicaragua asks international community for help

Death toll climbs to 13 as rains continue

The Sandinista government is calling on the international community for help following two weeks of continual rains that have claimed 13 lives, isolated dozens of communities and caused millions of dollars in damages to infrastructure.

Nicaragua’s call for international aid from the UN and foreign donors came a day after President Daniel Ortega issued a “state of national emergency.”

“We have already activated the mechanisms of aid from foreign donors (already operating in Nicaragua), and we have also activated the mechanism for international aid to start to mobilize funds towards the country. The preliminary (damage) numbers we have are still basic, but they are sufficient to begin to ask for international aid,” said Valdrack Jaentschke, vice minister of foreign relations.

President Ortega meanwhile met in Managua yesterday with all the mayors from around the country. He reported the government’s preliminary damage totals: 13 dead, 27,800 displaced families, 12,500 manzanas of damaged crops, and 1,000 kilometers of road damaged or destroyed.

The president said families in temporary shelters will have to hold tight for now. Many of the families come from communities bordering Lake Managua, which has swollen to its record-setting height reached in 2010.

The lake is currently at a height of 42.35 meters above sea level, just 38 centimeters below the 2010 record. If it grows any higher over the next few days, another 600 families will have to be evacuated, the president said.

Last year’s flooding required the government to permanently relocate 900 families living near the lake to new homes on higher ground.   

Managua is the most affected by the rains, which have caused damage in nine municipalities, claimed 9 lives, flooded 119 communities, and displaced some 4,000 families, according to the government.

The rains haven’t, however, dampened the Sandinistas’ political and religious zeal.

Speaking on behalf of the other mayors, Sadrach Zeledón, the Sandinista mayor from Matagalpa, read a declaration thanking the president for handling the emergency, “With the upmost responsibility and efficiency in directing preventive measures and attending to the emergency, while mitigating the immediate effects that the rains have caused our country for the past 15 days.”

The mayors pledged to continue working under the Sandinista model of “citizen power” to respond to the rains and flooding.

Ortega, for his part, thanked God that Nicaragua has the support of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).

“This allows us to count on resources with flexible conditions,” Ortega said, without elaborating. “In this sense, we are already working to create a fond thanks to the generosity, in particular, of the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela, and Comandante-President Hugo Chávez.”

Ortega also mentioned other countries that helping out: Spain, Mexico, Iran, Taiwan and Canada, as well as the World Food Programme, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Central American Integration Bank.