"Teatro in Time of Plague – 61

Iota should be making landfall soon. It has been cloudy all day, About 10:30 there was a heavy rain for about half an hour. It stopped and even cleared up a bit. About 3:30 the rain showed up again, not as strong. Iota strengthened in the morning to a category 4 storm, then a category 5 – the strongest storm of the year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - The official statistics pages has not been updated.

Rain. Rain. Rain. Iota made landfall last night, about 15 miles away from where Eta had made landfall, in northern Nicaragua. It made landfall as a category 5 storm; it was quickly downgraded to category 2. But those categories seem to be basically measures of the wind speed, and have little connection to the amount of water the storm brings. For us, the serious rain started about midnight. I awoke about 7:00 and it was raining seriously; it continued moderately all morning. In the afternoon it turned stronger and continues (It’s 6:00 pm) . Iota is supposed to enter the country about the same spot in the south as Eta did, early this evening. It is now downgraded to a tropical storm, although curiously we’ve been getting something of wind. They are predicting at least another 24 hours of rain.

I moved my car out of the area of the garage and parked it on high ground yesterday. I went up onto the roof terrace today and could see that whole zone is flooded. Everything is flooded again. I am just listening to a Radio Progreso interview with weather service, who is predicting 30 inches of rainfall for tonight. There are two major rivers that form the Sula Valley: Chamelecón and Ulúa. The former passes through Lima, and Progreso is on the bank of the latter. They say that the Chamelecón is in worse shape, and that Lima is already under water again. In the afternoon the disaster agency ordered that all bridges be closed; a little later they ordered that all highways be closed. All the bridges are in danger, and roads have been cut all over the place.The predictions is that the storm will continue to Salvador and play itself out in the Pacific. That would make it only the second storm to cross the isthmus that I can remember. (The other was one named Juana in the late ‘80’s, which passed through Managua – I remember it because I happened to be in Managua at the time).

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - Still no updates of the official statistics page.

It had stopped raining in the morning when I awoke about 7:00. It remained cloudy and threatening all morning; then in the early afternoon the clouds broke and there were a few minutes of sunshine before the clouds closed in again. There have been light showers on and off all afternoon. The rain has continued in the mountains, and the rivers continue to rise here in the valley. The storm itself has played itself out in El Salvador and over the Pacific, but there are still many remnants over the whole area: the storm was huge, and left behind all sorts of children. What saved us was that it moved fairly fast. Once again, the flooding is catastrophic: all the areas that were flooded from Eta plus a good deal more. Apart from the human cost, the valley is the center of food production in the country: and a huge share of those crops (even apart from the banana crop) are under water.

There are problems of violence in the shelters. Take the inhabitants of some of the most violent cities on earth, traumatize them and then throw them together in miserable circumstances – and what do you expect to happen? Radio Progreso has lost its FM signal from the main tower in the valley, which is on a mountain behind San Pedro Sula. Here in the valley you can only get them by AM or by internet. I think the signal is good in the rest of the country. Today is the anniversary of the Garifuna leaders disappearance on July 18 in Triunfo de la Cruz. Needless to say, the police have not even bothered to come up with fake culprits. The rivers continue rising.

November 19, 2020 - 103, 488 cases, 2, 839 deaths.

The sun peeked through the clouds in the morning and started a drying out process. At about 10:00 the rivers started to fall a bit. But then at noon it clouded up and in the siesta it started too rain – not terribly hard, but rain. That continued on and off and is still going. They’ve warned that the rivers are beginning to rise again because it is raining in the mountains.

There was one bit of good news in the midst of it all: the hurricane center in Miami had sent out a warning that another storm was forming in the same area as Eta and Iota, one that would become Kappa (sounds like a college fraternity). Today they said that system has dissolved, so at least we don’t have to worry about another one. I spent the day partly in communication to make sure all the teatro people are ok (Luis’ mothers house flooded again, but the waters there have gone down and he was able to spend the day trying to clean).

You may have seen the drone fotos of the airport completely under water; the terminal once again is in over 2 meters of water. That happened in Mitch. In the years since Mitch there was all kinds of money put into projects to protect the airport and what comes of all that is exactly the same thing. A huge example of "¿Donde está el dinero?" The whole valley is flooded again. Highways are cut everywhere. There is no passage to San Pedro Sula. There is no passage to Tegucigalpa (there are several places on that road that are cut). I think you can get to Tela but you can’t get beyond it: no Ceiba or Aguán Valley. (The Aguán was hit at least as hard as we were). Bridges out everywhere. I haven’t seen any statistics yet on how many people are in shelters. It’s a lot. But I think most of those did not lose their houses and will at least have something to go back to when the waters recede. Most of them lost everything else. A ray of light: the barrio I have been attending pastorally for years, Pénjamo, was really heavily hit in Mitch. This time – these times – the river Pelo stayed in its banks in Pénjamo (it broke them further downstream) and Pénjamo didn’t suffer any losses.

Friday, November 20, 2020 - The official statistics page has not been updated.

The sun came out in the morning. About noon it clouded over and began on and off rain in the afternoon. In the evening we are supposed to get a tropical wave (onda tropical; I have no idea what the technical term is in English) which will bring rain through tomorrow. At one o’clock they opened the flood gates of the huge dam El Cajón, which empties into the Río Ulúa. (When it was build in the early ‘80’s it was one of the three largest construction projects in the world at that moment). This meant that the river started to rise again; that will be added to the rain of the onda tropical tonight. So we ain’t out of the woods yet. A friend from Lima who is holed up with his family in San Pedro Sula tells me there are military at the entrances to La Lima to keep people out.

The biggest danger at the moment is from mudslides; the ground is saturated everywhere, and especially in deforested zones they are becoming frequent. Most of the deaths that have occurred (thankfully there have not been too many) have been due to mudslides. Downtown was rather quiet. Not quite deserted, but very little actividad (it’s not flooded). We had a meeting in the teatro of our directorate, to try to figure out what to do. Didn’t really come up with much; it’s too early still to know what’s going to happen with the shelters (they may empty out quickly once the water goes down). And any kind of activity has the complication of Covid – we haven’t been doing shows in normal times due to that. We decided to summon actors on Monday to start work on a couple of kid’s stories to record for radio – we’ve turned to radioteatro in the face of Covid. Edy had the idea that we could play recorded stories for the kids in shelter. Might work. But a lot of installation of equipment. In one of the ex-banana camps to the north of Progreso they captured a huge crocodile – and ate it.

Saturday, November 21, 2020 - Still no update of the official statistics.

It was raining when I awoke in the morning. They said it had started at 5:00. It wasn’t a hurricane rain, but it was serious rain. The rain has come and gone all day. Around noon it let up and looked like it might clear up, but the clouds closed in again.This is supposed to go on until Monday. The rain combined with the discharges from the dam equals rising rivers again, which means everything is staying underwater. Luis is organizing the actors for a program of taking food to the shelters. The government remains conspicuous for its absence. Radio Progreso remains off the air in the FM band here in the valley. The AM is good as is the internet transmission. And the FM is good in the rest of the country. I still haven’t seen any reliable statistic on how many people are in shelters or in homemade plastic tents. It is many thousand. It’s cold and with this rain, it’s going to be a miserable night for those thousands. Thank God for my dry bed and a good blanket.

Sunday, November 22, 2020 - Still no update of the official statistics page.

It rained all night, heavy. Everything flooded again. About 10:00 I spotted a patch of blue; by 12:00 there was sunlight. But then in the afternoon it clouded over again, and it gives the impression that this will be another full night of rain. My lawyer friend Roger and I decided to go out for cena after being trapped in our houses all week. We went to Las Tejas, which was flooded earlier in the week. The water didn’t seem to have done much damage; it’s a concrete floor and most of it is elevated. Trucks and high vehicles can get to San Pedro. Christopher and his family got back to Progreso today from San Pedro Sula; they went the long way, through La Barca. I don’t know how they did it – they don’t have a vehicle. They were staying with relatives in San Pedro; and are staying with friends here in Progreso. Tomorrow they will go and take stock of the damage to their house. The town of Yoro is completely cut off. Their water system was destroyed (they are talking about three months to get water back) and they have been five days without electricity. The list of similar situations is endless. The news cycle has passed on, but we are still in the mud.

Keep safe and wash your hands,





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