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Emergency 090709 Jimena

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Monday, September 7, 2009

 

Disaster Relief Begins in US after Hurricane Jimena beats Baja California Sur

 

By Patricia Rains

 

Update – MexiData.info note: On September 10 the Mexican federal government officially updated its September 7 "emergency declaration," for Baja California Sur, to a "natural disaster declaration" for the municipalities of Comondú, Loreto and Santa Rosalía [DOF: 10/09/2009: (...) Artículo 1o.- Se declara como zona de desastre a los Municipios de Comondú, Loreto y Mulegé del Estado de Baja California Sur].  The September 7 notice in the Official Daily of the Federation declared the municipalities of Los Cabos, La Paz, Comondú, Loreto and Mulegé, in Baja California Sur, emergency areas due to the damages caused by hurricane Jimena.

 

In the wake of Hurricane Jimena, an estimated 35,000 people in central Baja California, Mexico, are homeless and stranded without food, water or power. Rescue efforts and communications are hampered by destroyed airports, roads, bridges, power lines and cell phone towers.

 

Hurricane Jimena, a Category 3 storm, made landfall September 2 at Magdalena Bay on the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur. It skirted northward and crossed the peninsula toward Mulege and Santa Rosalia, where it hovered for days over the west central Sea of Cortez. Central Baja California suffered massive flash floods and mudslides, and Highway 1 is severed in many places. Flooding occurred as far east as Guaymas, Sonora. Unusual for a cyclonic storm, the remnants of Jimena moved south down the Sea of Cortez before petering out.  

 

Without airports and roads, damage assessment couldn’t begin until Sunday, September 6, when the Ciudad Constitución runway was repaired. Baja California Sur governor Narcisco Agundez Montaño and officials of the Baja California Civil Protection agency and Mexico Red Cross (Cruz Roja) inspected some of the devastated areas and flew over others. Baja California Sur was declared a natural disaster and funds were released to speed recovery. Lacking electricity, shelters in central Baja California Sur were already overwhelmed with displaced families and had run out of water, food and basic medical supplies.

 

Severe damage occurred at Isla Magdalena, Santa Maria Bay, Puerto Lopez Mateos, Puerto San Carlos, Punta Abreojos, San Ignacio Lagoon, Ciudad Constitución, Villa Insurgentes, Comondu, Loreto airport, Mulege, Santa Rosalia and San Ignacio, according to the Baja California Civil Protection agency. Highway 1 is severed in many places, and large bridges are washed out. The US State Department warned tourists not to attempt to drive down Baja California.

 

Relief efforts are just getting underway. (See list below of most requested items and relief aid contacts.) One death is confirmed in Mulege, but more are expected to be reported as relief workers reach isolated areas by air and sea later this week.

 

The following reports were compiled from emails, ham radio messages, YouTube video, websites, web blogs, and Spanish-speaking TV newscasts.

 

After flying over Puerto Lopez Mateos, members of the Baja Bush Pilots, a private organization, reported that half the cannery buildings were destroyed, all wood homes were flattened, and a quarter of the population is homeless. Earlier reports said 750 homes were lost in that town, and that the desalination plant at the cannery was destroyed, so the municipality had no water. Earlier reports said the two isolated fishing villages on the barrier island of Isla Magdalena no longer existed.

 

A Telemundo news team traveling with the Baja California governor reported that the last message from Puerto San Carlos on Magdalena Bay came from a police officer just prior to the hurricane’s landfall, saying the town of San Carlos could not be evacuated because the isthmus roadway had been breached by flood waters.

 

Following Jimena’s path, Punta Abreojos village and Laguna San Ignacio (whale park) took a direct hit by Jimena’s eye wall as a Category 2 hurricane. Shari Bondi in the Pacific coast fishing village of Bahia Asuncion reported that her village fared well but that Abreojos village and San Ignacio Lagoon were badly damaged.

 

Up on Baja California’s central mesa, in the large agricultural towns of Ciudad Constitución and Villa Insurgentes, 70% to 90% of the buildings (homes, businesses) were reported as destroyed or not habitable. The mayor’s office in Constitución requested medical supplies, food and water.  

 

The airport at Constitución has been repaired and opened on Monday, September 7, so emergency supplies are being air lifted there, coordinated by the Baja California Civil Protection agency, the Baja Bush Pilots, and the Flying Samaritans. Emergency supplies will be distributed to outlying villages as roads are repaired.

 

Puerto Escondido reported no injuries, all the marina moorings held, a few API moorings dragged. A few attended boats chafed through their own mooring lines or dragged anchor but were assisted by the marina staff and fellow yatistas. A few unattended boats did drag ashore, mostly into mangroves. Loreto airport was damaged and closed, but officials said power may be restored to Loreto on Saturday, September 12. The highway south toward Constitución was washed out, many bridges gone, but recent reports say it is passable to La Paz.

 

Mulege: a 75-year old man drowned when floodwaters filled his home. Mulege residents are reporting worse damage than from Hurricane John in 2006. The highway bridge was 6 feet under raging torrents when the flash flood crested, but that bridge is still standing. All Mulege homes along the river were flooded, about half were destroyed. The fire station had 2 feet of water inside, and throughout the town many roofs are gone and home walls collapsed. All Mulege grocery stores were flooded, and locals are asking for emergency food & water. Mulege shelters are overwhelmed by homeless Jimena victims, so people are sleeping in cars.

 

All homes on Punta Chivato were flooded and damaged, some destroyed. A pilot living at Punta Chivato reported that one unpaved airstrip has been repaired for emergency landings.

 

Santa Rosalia’s downtown area was devastated by flash floods (water, mud and debris) that scoured the central canyon, washing cars and drowned livestock out to sea. The older Marina Santa Rosalia was destroyed except for two slips. The Singlar marina reported to be OK, no boats or docks sunk. Yatistas said it rained heavily for 48 hours straight. One person is reported missing from a fishing village north of Santa Rosalia, according to the Baja California Civil Protection agency.

 

AIRLIFT ITEMS FOR SHELTERS & HOMELESS

Basic first aid and OTC medical supplies, cooking pans & utensils, camp tents, plastic tarps, rope, flashlights & lanterns with batteries, cloth shoes, clothing, light bedding. After the roads open, heavier items will be sought for donation and carried by truck.  

 

CONTACTS: Civil Protection Agency of Baja California Sur: contact Professor Jose Gajon de la Toba, 011-52-030-546-100, or email him at procivilbcs@live.com.mx

 

Mexico Red Cross (Cruz Roja) in Mexico City: head of the Cruz Roja National Relief Coordinator is Isaac Oxenhaut: 55-362-7089, email comunicacion@cruzrojamexicana.org.mx.  However, as we go to press, the Cruz Roja website has not been updated since the day before Hurricane Jimena struck.

 

Baja Bush Pilots: In southern California and the southwest US, Baja Bush Pilots has coordinated with Cruz Roja and the Baja California Civil Protection agency, and is now flying down emergency medical supplies. To help with their airlift efforts, email Jimena disaster relief coordinator  Jack@BajaBushPilots.com  or visit www.BajaBushPilots.com.

 

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Capt Patricia Miller Rains (PatRains@MexicoBoating.com) is Publisher of Point Loma Publishing (www.MexicoBoating.com).  She also writes a column, "El Reporte" – on Mexico and Central America, in the biweekly The Log http://www.thelog.com/.