HURRICANE MITCH has prompted Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief to launch an appeal to engineers for help with immediate aid efforts in storm-devastated Central America.
The charity has already been contacted by five aid agencies for help in Nicaragua and Honduras. But so far it has only been able to mobilise two water engineers and one logistician.
RedR manager Wendy Tabuteau said: 'We have so few Spanish speakers that we are desperately seeking all those who speak the language to come forward.'
As NCE went to press, only 15 of the 70 RedR members contacted had confirmed their availability. The charity is now calling for non-members to get in touch if they have any previous disaster relief or development experience.
'Please send us a CV if you have got the skills and we will take it from there,' said Tabuteau.
Winds up to 290km/h lashed Central America last week, causing severe and widespread flooding. More than 24,000 people in the region are dead or missing, a million are homeless and up to 70% of the infrastructure in the worst affected areas has been destroyed.
RedR has been approached for technical support by Oxfam, Action Aid, CARE Canada, Merlin and Medicins sans Frontiers Spain. One member flew out to Managua in Nicaragua on Monday with Oxfam, and two others are set to go to Honduras by the end of the week.
Harold Lockwood, a RedR engineer already working for the state water authority in Nicaragua, described conditions on Monday as 'pretty grim'. In an e-mail to RedR's London headquarters, he said: 'In the Matagalpa- Jinotega region we have seen little from the outside either nationally or internationally ... after nine days we are still cut off from the rest of the country, with 40 bridges destroyed and a further 30 badly affected.'
The British Government is assisting with search and rescue work with four ships and nine helicopters in the region. The Department for International Development has given 200,000 to the Red Cross, but a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said there were no plans as yet to send the Royal Engineers.
'The main thrust at the moment is to get people to safe areas where they can be helped with food, medical supplies and shelter by the aid agencies,' he said.
RedR can be contacted on (0171) 233 3116, fax (0171) 222 0564 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. uk