Marines Giving Aid to Hurricane Victims
Posted December 21, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
EL SALVADOR — There are eight people in Delia Flores's family. With the little bit of money they have, they have to go out and buy their water.
Hurricane Mitch destroyed everything and washed away all their belongings. They lost livestock. They even lost their clothes.
In place of the possessions, Hurricane Mitch left contaminated water.
"Because of the livestock in the water that drowned, and the feces in the water from farmland, it all washed up into the drinking water, so it's all contaminated," said Hector Hernandez, community director.
Now, Marines from Camp Lejeune are trying to clean up the water. They tested it and say it is not safe to drink. Besides being dirty, it also has salt in it.
For now though, people are using a nearby river to bathe and to wash clothes, but Camp Lejeune Marines fear that out of desperation, people will drink the water. Already 25 villagers have been hospitalized with water-bourne illnesses.
"There are 500 wells contaminated by the hurricane," said one Marine. "We're helping to purify those wells the best we can."
Marines say their first order of business is to get clean water to the hurricane victims.
"We're going to take water out of here, clean it, make it available to local people," said another Marine.
Then they intend to get the wells and water distribution systems back running.
"This is a good situation," said Capt. Jeffrey Miller. "We can come in here and fix something that is broken and leave knowing it's better than when we got here."
Just down the road another village is also without clean water. Hurricane Mitch destroyed that well also. For the people there to bathe, wash dishes and clothes, they have to go miles to get water from other towns.
But despite their obvious hardships, people of the village persevere. They say they get their strength from their Roman Catholic faith which they practice in an outdoor church.
"Right after the hurricane they had a mass to give God thanks that none of them drowned," said Mercedes Lopez de Fernandez, a church leader. "They still keep their faith."
They also have faith that the Marines will be able to get them clean water.
Right now, disease is considered the biggest threat facing people in the wake of the hurricane.