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House washed away in climate floods

December 2010

Seven-year-old Juan David climbed up a tree and watched as his house collapse into a river – a river that hadn’t been there just a week before.

Juan A porJuan's family home was washed away by floods

Floodwater from tropical storm Agatha meant that Juan David’s family’s home, and all their belongings were washed away.

Scientists agree with the locals here that the storms that hit this community on the pacific coast of Guatemala are now stronger and more frequent.

And that this is probably because of climate change. In fact, this storm hit before the official hurricane season even began, catching communities unaware.

‘We weren’t expecting floods like those of Agatha in the month of May. We used to get one or two towards the end of the year, it looks like it will be 15 or 16 storms affecting our country this year,’ says Manuel Pinea, leader of the community emergency committee.

Local factors

There are local environmental factors that can make the impact of the floods worse here. Localised deforestation and farming methods of large-scale landowners mean that the rivers fill up with topsoil and even weaker storms can cause huge amounts of damage and flooding for these communities.

So with help from Christian Aid partner CPDL, Manuel and his committee are working hard to do all they can mitigate against such disasters.

CPDL informed Manuel of his rights and the best ways to lobby and campaign to persuade local and national government to act. As a result the community has got them to do work dredging the rivers, and reinforcing the river banks providing more protection for them.

Global damage

But the bigger problem of worsening storms is not something the community can tackle alone. We all need to act to stop climate change.

We can all reduce our emissions. We can demand that our government fights for a fair and binding agreement with other countries to stop climate change further harming the lives of the poor, like Juan David.
‘I think we have to act now. I think some of us are taking action already, but all of us have to take action,’ says Manuel Pinea.

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