November 10 2009

SOS Children's Villages El Salvador mourns the death of a child and suffers severe structural damage

10/11/2009 - Hurricane Ida has claimed the life of a child and destroyed the houses and crops of several families being supported by SOS Children's Villages. While the storm also heavily damaged facilities of the children's village in San Vicente, four buildings of the children's village in Santa Ana are now unsafe.

Photo: SOS Archives
The sudden flood swept away everything in its path - Photo: SOS Archives 

The floods caused by hurricane Ida in El Salvador on Sunday gave Alexis, age four, no chance: His home was destroyed in moments, with the entire family still inside. Though his mother and little sister, aged one and a half years, were rescued, Alexis' body has not yet been found. Alexis' family has been receiving support from SOS Children's Villages since he was one year old, and they need more help now than ever.

Photo: SOS Archive
Many houses, while they still stand, are no longer safe - Photo: SOS Archives

The storm swept away the houses of several families receiving support from SOS Children's Villages through its family strengthening programmes, and damaged several more.While some families have suffered the destruction of their crops - a tragedy in its own right, since the sale of their produce constitutes the entire livelihood of many families - others have lost it all: their source of income, their personal posessions and their homes. They are being sheltered and cared for in public buildings that have not been damaged. The family strengthening programme of SOS Children's Villages in San Vicente supports 45 families, with a total of 68 children. Two whole families are still missing.

Photo: SOS Archive
The wall around the SOS Children's Village San Vicente has all but collapsed - Photo: SOS Archives

The hardship of these families puts the severity of the structural damage on facilities within the SOS Children's Village in perspective: while the wall around the compound has been partially destroyed, the homes of SOS families remain unharmed. The only exception is the house of one SOS family with seven children who lived outside the village in a residential area close by, in the immediate vicinity of a river. The back door of the house now opens on a drop of several meters, where the soil right up to the walls of the house was washed away. Luckily, the family had been evacuated well before that.

In a different part of the country, the harm done on the SOS Children's Village Santa Ana is far less evident, but all the more threatening: even though none of the buildings have suffered any damage, three family homes and a communal hall are at risk of being entirely destroyed, since they are merely a few metres away from a drop of several metres. Since this drop has not been reinforced by a concrete wall, the weight of the water that has fallen on the area in just a few hours may cause the wall to collapse, pulling the four buildings into the chasm with it.

Hurricane Ida killed 130 people in El Salvador, destroyed more than 250 houses and damaged some 1,800 buildings. 70 people are still missing. The most immediate needs in El Salvador now are drinking water, food and blankets.