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Stan causes damage

Marcela Berrios | Friday, September 29, 2006

Students at Notre Dame, particularily during midterms, rarely have enough time to watch the news – so it is not surprising the student body is not entirely aware of the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Stan in Central America the last few days.

The footage of Guatemala and El Salvador, replayed in the news, is reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina – except the victims this time around are farmers and villagers, and the homes destroyed were not located along Bourbon Street, but on the Central American countryside.

More disastrously, though, these homes were not made of concrete, but rather of mud and clay.

Hurricane Stan, though not as potent as Katrina, has had an equally devastating effect, as the infrastructure in these countries is not designed to resist a hurricane.

After a week of incessant rain, the streets of San Salvador are flooded, partly because the city’s drainage system dates back to 1920, and has not received significant maintenance since.

Houses are built irresponsibly, positioned along hills and mountains that may pose the threat of mudslides. In 2001, two earthquakes caused the side of a hill to collapse, burying an entire neighborhood.

The tragic scene repeated itself in 2005, when a mudslide in Guatemala came over the Mayan village of Panabaj like an avalanche. Rescuers are likely to declare the site a mass grave, as they expect all 1,400 of the village’s residents to be dead.

Mayan Indians place great importance on the proper burial rituals of their loved ones, but once again, they are powerless in the face of a natural disaster that has already claimed their homes and crops.

In El Salvador, more than 60,000 people have lost their homes and work.

Hurricane Katrina is still fresh in the memories of Notre Dame students, and though it may feel as if we just contributed to a similar cause, the truth is that the Guatemalan and Salvadoran people need as much help – and as urgently – as the residents of New Orleans did.

This is not the time to dwindle in our efforts to provide a helping hand to those who need it.

The earthquake that took the lives of 20,000 Pakistanis over the weekend is yet another painful reminder that our responsibility of solidarity to those less fortunate never ends.

There will be fundraisers for both the South Asian and Central American victims in the coming days, and if one were to come across any one of them outside the elevator in LaFortune or at the USC game, one should spare no expense.

I, too, am a college student – perpetually bankrupt – but I can spare a dollar or two, and though it may not seem much at first, it will eventually add up to a significant amount if everybody else also contributes a dollar or two.

Open up your wallets, Notre Dame. Because the wrath of Mother Nature did not end in Louisiana, and there are still thousands of people who desperately need help.