Columbia Floods - 2011
The 2010 Colombian rainy season was unusually heavy and the continuous rainfalls in combination with unstable grounds and dwellings located in high risk zones contributed to widespread damage. The flooding and associated landslides killed 174 persons, left 225 wounded and 19 others missing. 1.5 million were left homeless
We were alerted to the floods that had devastated much of the north of Colombia at the beginning of 2011 and made contact with the Rotary Club of Cartagena offering a consignment of 260 standard Water-Survival Boxes. The boxes were sent and then divided between four Rotary Clubs in different parts of the region for distribution.
The attached photographs show some of the boxes that were distributed to families in Campo Alegre (Happy Camp) on the outskirts of the town of Gramalote in the department of North Santander. Thirty two of 40 municipalities in the North Santander Department had been unreachable by the debris and floods in its roads. The landslides and avalanches in some parts affected over 60 thousand people. The municipality of Gramalote suffered a landslide that affected 400 homes at the periphery of the town. The entire population was evacuated. In addition to the rain, a geological fault made the houses in this town crumble like a pack of cards. 100 houses collapsed and some streets and pedestrian walkways broke open as if an earthquake had taken place.
Members of the Rotary Club of Cucuta were responsible for distribution as part of their on-going support to this devastated community. Having learnt of the extent of this disaster we now appreciate how difficult their task has been and congratulate our Rotary friends for all they have done to bring relief to families in such need.
Today May 8, 2011, after several days of preparation and enthusiasm, coupled with a strong sense of patriotic pain, two of the Rotary Clubs in Zone 4, District 4270, the Villa del Rosario and Cϊcuta City of Trees, came together at 9.30am to go to the municipality of Santiago in the west of our department, Norte de Santander. Santiago, known as "Golden Gate of the peoples of the West", will celebrate its first 100 years of existence as a municipality on May 22. It is 33 miles from Cucuta and is affected by the rivers Zulia and Peralonso both of which suffered many floods in previous months. The floods caused severe damage to the main Cucuta to Santiago road making it impassable to vehicles where small sections were washed away by the force of the river and pose a continuing threat to traffic. This area has been noted for its beautiful landscapes, coffee, cocoa, maize, rice and large tracts of livestock and above all beaches on the crystal clear rivers, and has attracted visitors throughout the year with its climate of a constant 28 degrees Celsius, but today we took the 20 Rotarians from both clubs to undertake one of the activities for which the Rotary movement has been known for over a hundred years in the world - community service. Thanks to the magic of international communications Chelwood Bridge Rotary Club (District 1200), England learned about the real situation of our country due to the severity of the rains in recent months. In countless municipalities the rains ravaged mountains and the rivers caused extensive damage through flooding. Contact was established with Antonio Escalante and Jose Durazo, Cartagena Rotarians, that made it possible for 260 cases of survival (Water- survival boxes) to be sent for distribution to some of the Colombian families affected. During the past five years more than 7600 boxes have been given by British Rotarians following disasters around the world.
Since 2004 Water-Survival Boxes have been delivered after natural tragedies like the tsunami in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Japan, in Pakistan and Bangladesh Cyclones, Floods in Uganda and Ecuador, Haiti and Chile earthquakes, internal conflicts in countries like Kenya and, Uganda. Now, for the first time, in Colombia, and more specifically in Santiago, Norte de Santander, helping families cope with personal tragedy. This program confirms the greatness of Rotary throughout the world, the British donated boxes and transport, to get to Colombia is necessary to pay a ridiculous amount of customs expenses due to management and finally some Rotarians from the Clubs of Bucaramanga and Cucuta are committed to bring them at no charge, from Cartagena to Bucaramanga and Cucuta, a joint project of the Rotary world in favor of the needy, now in Colombia. Once the boxes reached Cϊcuta, our presidents, Irma and Michael, contacted the priest in Santiago to determine that this was where we needed to deliver these boxes to 10 families, with about four or five members per family. In March, the Cerro de las Cruces (Hill of Crosses) collapsed and in its wake left their homes buried with forty or more years of history. It is impossible to imagine that this little box, which is no larger than 60x40x30 cm and weighs up to 14 kilos, can contain as many essential items in response to an event such as a tsunami, earthquake or flood, including toiletries and health items such as soap, wipes, bandages, toothbrushes and toothpaste; tools like hammer, nails, matches, wire, shovels, duct tape, thread, scissors, candles, rope, flashlight, school supplies like pencils and notebook, cooking pots, pans, serving spoons and cutlery, a tent with its own backing and the great strength of this case, a water purification system for approximately three thousand litres with their respective equipment. After delivery of the boxes at the rectory to the respective 10 families we realized something of the tragedy of destruction that these families had to live with, to walk around town and see the mountain still sliding down into the main streets and the remains of their houses lost between the immensity of mud, trees, roots and other elements of this situation. This type of activity generated in Rotarians mixed feelings, because while we experience the joy of the families to know the benefits of the "box" and know they will survive, we realised that all is not finished. It generates in us a feeling of sadness to know that the vast majority of these tragedies could have been avoided if we respected the environment. Maybe with all the information sources available, it is never too late for ROTARY to begin to act on behalf of the rivers, mountains and many natural beauties we have in Colombia. Continue living and spread the greatness of Rotary, enabling people in need to feel something was done to resolve their situation with the aid we give as part of COMMUNITY SERVICE.