Shelters for people whose homes have been flooded or damaged by Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Honduras are now so crowded that thousands of victims have taken refuge under highway overpasses or bridges.
But nowhere are the evacuated victims more crowded than in the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, where some neighborhoods are still under water. The evacuees say they fear that even when they are eventually allowed to return to their flooded neighborhoods, they will find that everything is gone.
Orlando Antonio Linares runs a municipal shelter at a school in San Pedro Sula, home to nearly 500 hurricane victims. There are about 84 shelters throughout the city, housing as many as 100,000 people.
“There is a shortage of everything,” Linares said, referring to water, food and medicine. “There is a shortage because after these two hurricanes the need is so great.”
The situation also reflects the difficulty of sheltering victims of natural disasters in a coronavirus pandemic. There is no room for social distancing at school and few people wear face masks.
“We are working against COVID,” Linares said, noting “we give people the material (masks), but then they don’t use it. We need to educate people. “
Currently, evacuees are much more worried about acquiring basic goods and fearing what they will find when they return home.
Couple Rebecca Diaz and Jose Alberto Murillo and their five children have been in the shelter for about two weeks after Eta and Iota flooded their neighborhood.
“We have been sleeping on the floor for two weeks, the children are sleeping on the floor,” Murillo said. “We are forgotten.”
Diaz is more worried about their home than the coronavirus. “I need roofing sheets,” she said. “I have no way of making a roof over my head.”
Housewife Irma Sarmiento expressed similar concerns. Her house in the Colonia Nuevo San Juan neighborhood, she said, is still under water.
“I feel that the future is uncertain. We have nothing left, “said Sarmiento. “You work all your life to be left with nothing.”
“What will we have when we return?” Nothing, she said.
And yet there are those who are in a worse position. Former maquila factory worker Jarlin Antonio Lorenzo said he couldn’t even find a place in a shelter; instead, he and nearly 500 others camped under a highway overpass on the outskirts of the city.
“There are no baths, people go up the hills to go to the bathroom,” he said. “People are starving here … the shelters are full.”