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Honduran engineers attack 'badly co-ordinated' government response

THE PRESIDENT of the Honduran Colegio de Ingenieros - the equivalent of the UK's Institution of Civil Engineers - has launched an outspoken attack on the Honduran government's handling of the Hurricane Mitch crisis.

Speaking to NCE on Monday, Abner Miralda claimed the government had ignored offers help and advice from local engineers, put too much reliance on outside assistance and had 'no principal channel for co-ordination'.

The government was riddled with bureaucracy and political favouritism, he added. Offers of help and advice from the Colegio on the reconstruction of the country were being met with a 'closed door', he said.

'We want to work directly with the government but in this country political alliance is everything, so it is very difficult,' he said.

Miralda also claimed that a report highlighting flood risk from deforestation and badly planned urban developments had been sent to government officials three years ago but was ignored.

'We said before the hurricane that there would be a problem with flooding and that they would have to relocate the shanty towns on the river banks,' he said. 'They did nothing.'

Few records of floods are kept in Honduras. Engineers rely on anecdotal evidence of maximum levels from local people when designing infrastructure and housing close to rivers. Miralda is now calling for a national archive to be set up following the disaster.

Meanwhile, the Colegio is forming voluntary groups of engineers who will give technical advice on re-constructing towns and villages to local authorities across the country.

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