Felix toll rises to at least 98 as bodies are pulled from the sea
The Associated Press
Published: September 6, 2007
PUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua: U.S., Honduran and Nicaraguan soldiers searched remote jungle beaches and the open sea Thursday for survivors and cadavers after Hurricane Felix claimed at least 98 lives, many of them Miskito Indians who died fleeing the Category 5 storm.
Two days after the storm hit, dozens more bodies were recovered along the Miskito coastline that stretches across the Nicaragua-Honduras border, including at least 44 Indian fishermen whose bodies were found floating at sea, emergency officials said.
Abelino Cox, a spokesman for the Regional Emergency Committee, said the death toll from Felix had risen to 98, including two people killed in the village of Sing Sing, 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Puerto Cabezas.
The storm also completely destroyed the ethnic Zumo and Mayagna Indian community of Awastingni, located 90 kilometers (55 miles) northwest of Puerto Cabezas, Cox said. Fourteen members of the jungle community were missing.
"This is horrifying," said Brooklin Rivera, a lawmaker who is on the emergency committee.
Felix damaged or destroyed nearly 8,000 houses in and around Puerto Cabezas and 18,000 Nicaraguans are living in shelters, civil defense officials said.
Earlier Thursday, rescuers found at least 25 bodies floating in waters off Honduras' coast and another 32 people were still missing after their village was destroyed and the boats they fled on capsized. Some 52 survivors washed ashore or were found clinging to debris. The 25 bodies were included in the death toll of 98.
Aid was arriving slowly in the region, where descendants of Indians, European settlers and African slaves live in stilt homes on island reefs and in small hamlets, surviving by fishing and diving for lobster.
Interviewed by phone from the swampy jungle area, Honduran Col. Saul Orlando Coca told The Associated Press that U.S. and Honduran military officials were patrolling the sea and inlets with helicopters and boats as soldiers walked beaches on foot. Villagers joined the search, paddling their canoes through waters thick with fallen trees.
"There are still bodies of Nicaraguans floating in the sea that we haven't recovered," Coca said.
Martin Alvarez, who captains a fishing boat, radioed in to Nicaraguan authorities that he had pulled nine decomposing bodies from the ocean and was bringing them back to shore, but that had yet to be confirmed, said Ramon Arnesto Soza, a Nicaraguan civil defense chief.
Throughout the region, those who survived the storm lacked food and fresh water. An AP photographer reached one isolated village where the only thing to drink was the water in fallen coconuts.
The Nicaraguan government said it would need at least US$30 million (€22 million) to rebuild.
The U.S. Southern Command sent an amphibious warship, the USS Wasp, to Nicaragua to help coordinate U.S. relief efforts. Venezuela also sent aid, and 57 Cuban doctors and nurses already on medical missions along the Miskito coast helped as well.
Felix developed very quickly over the deep warm waters of the southern Caribbean. Nicaragua posted a hurricane warning less than 24 hours before it hit the coast, and scrambled to notify the remote, autonomous region where many have a long-standing mistrust of the central government. Few realized the storm would grow to a Category 5 hurricane so quickly, and some who were warned didn't believe it would be so dangerous.
In Honduras, a 15-year-old was buried by mud while trying to repair a water line in Tegucigalpa, and a 34-year-old man drowned in El Progreso. Late Thursday, emergency officials said a pregnant market vendor was killed in Tegucigalpa when a rainstorm caused a river to overflow. It was unclear if these deaths were included in the toll given by Nicaraguan officials.
The remnants of Henriette, meanwhile, dumped rain Thursday on Arizona and New Mexico. That hurricane hit Mexico on Tuesday and Wednesday, near Cabo San Lucas and again near the port city of Guaymas, then weakened over the Sonoran desert.
It left 10 dead, including a man who fell while trying to repair his roof. One woman drowned in high surf in Cabo San Lucas, and landslides buried six people in Acapulco as Henriette marched up the Pacific Coast.
On Thursday, Sonora state police said two more people died. Gaspar Gonzalez Melchor, 25, and his 2-year-old son Marco Antonio Gonzalez Molinares, died from carbon monoxide exposure after they set up a gasoline-powered generator inside their house amid the storm.
Some 5,000 people woke up in Mexican shelters Thursday. San Carlos, a beach town near Guaymas packed with American retirees, was among those hit.
"Waves reached up to the boulevard," said resident Fatima Reyes, 23. "It blew away roofing, trees and signs."
Cuevas reported from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Associated Press writers Filadelfo Aleman in Managua, Nicaragua, and Richard Jacobsen in Mexico City also contributed to this report.http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/07/america/LA-GEN-Tropical-Weather.php