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Honduras to set up emergency strategy

THE HONDURAN government is to set up a national emergency strategy to minimise the impact of any future natural disasters following Hurricane Mitch.

The decision follows a report by a team of World Bank experts which visited Honduras before Christmas (NCE 10/31 December 1998). It comes just as fresh flooding hit the north of the country last week.

Crisis control guru John Guerre and contamination specialist Jack Fritz have recommended setting up a disaster management strategy in time to cope with next year's rainy season, due to start in six months. The World Bank has pledged the resources and expertise needed to establish an emergency team as part of a £625M aid package.

The project will be based on an emergency strategy already set up by the World Bank in the Bahamas. It will focus on improving communication and warning systems throughout the country, and will also determine the need for flood defence works.

World Bank task manager Steve Maber said the emergency strategy would be expensive, but is vital to prevent a repeat of the Hurricane Mitch catastrophe. Latest reports put the number killed at 5,600, and the number still missing at 8,000.

'The next step is to define the size of the project, but it will probably involve building flood defence walls, gabion walls and flood attenuation ponds,' he said.

Fresh flooding in northern Honduras forced around 3,000 people to be evacuated and caused damage to recently repaired roads and property.

Seven cities were cut off and La Ceiba airport - the country's busiest - was closed again for two days. It eventually re-opened last Thursday, but as NCE went to press heavy rain was threatening to cause further havoc.

Work to drain a lake of heavily polluted water in the centre of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa started this week. Municipal engineers and the US Corps of Engineers are using excavators to remove thousands of tonnes of mud which dammed the River Choluteca following landslides.

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