Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the disastrously heavy rains that have soaked Central America in the past week, causing flooding, landslides and close to a hundred reported deaths at last count. Worst hit has been El Salvador, where broken levees along the swollen Lempa River have caused destruction not seen since Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
In Los Angeles, home to the largest population of Salvadorans outside of El Salvador, relief efforts have gotten underway. Several Central American immigrant organizations were planning to meet this afternoon to discuss relief plans and have already been in contact with several NGOs that are collecting money for flood relief, said Marvin Andrade, executive director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) near downtown Los Angeles.
"Unfortunately we've had a lot of experience with these types of efforts, with so many disasters that have hit the region," Andrade said. "Our experience is that the most effective way for peole to contribute is with money. We've done collection of supplies and food (in the past), but it's just very expensive to send containers and it takes a long time."
CARECEN and other groups are pointing those wanting to help to organizations such as SHARE El Salvador, a group that partners with immigrant hometown associations in the United States for development projects and which is collecting flood relief donations. The Salvadoran consulate in Los Angeles is also planning a fundraising event this weekend, Andrade said.
Another NGO collecting donations, EcoViva, has been posting updates from El Salvador on its website. From one yesterday:
Currently, government officials estimate that there are over 48,000 people crowding into a system of over 500 flood shelters and seeking food and medical aid. Overcrowded conditions are putting a strain on vastly insufficient emergency resources, and officials now fear that unless conditions improve, water and vector-borne illness will spread.
The general number for CARECEN is (213) 385-7800.