Hurricane Mitch

Hurricane Mitch is the name given to this terrible natural phenomenon that passed through Central America from October 22 to November 5, 1998, leaving behind a devastating landscape.

It formed in the western Atlantic Ocean on October 22, and after passing through extremely favorable conditions, it quickly reached Category 5 status, the highest possible level on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The affected areas were Central America, especially Honduras and Nicaragua, the Yucatan Peninsula and South Florida. Fatalities from catastrophic flooding made it the second deadliest hurricane in the Atlantic, with nearly 11,000 people killed and some 8,000 missing by the end of 1998. Tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed, due to landslides and flooding. There is no precise data on material losses, but it is estimated that a little more than $5 billion in damages.

In Honduras, 80% of the country’s transportation infrastructure was completely destroyed, including many bridges and alternative roads; The damage was so great that the existing maps were classified as obsolete. Although Mitch never entered Nicaragua, his long run caused prolonged rain that damaged 17,600 houses and destroyed 23,900, displacing 368,300 people. Additionally, 340 schools and 90 health centers were severely damaged or destroyed.

Mitch was also responsible for the loss of the Fantome sailboat owned by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises; All 31 crew members were killed. Grief, pain, death and destruction was part of the aftermath left by Tropical Storm Mitch and the Newton Depression in Guatemala. Departmental authorities to avoid major tragedies evacuated 46,000 people, especially in Zacapa, Izabal, Alta Verapaz, Petén and Chiquimula, while in the capital some 2,500 people who were in risk areas were transferred, reported the National Coordinator Disaster Reduction, Conred. To deal with the crisis, the authorities authorized 22 shelters in the capital and 47 in the departments.

The heavy downpours left several communities in the country incommunicado. According to the Ministry of Communications, there were 75 landslides in the northeast and south of the country. The telephone network in Gualán and Likin was interrupted for several days due to damage to the central stations.