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Lessons Learned, Hurricane Mitch. San Juan, Puerto Rico May 23-28, 2000. Hurricane Mitch. Most powerful hurricane to hit Central America in two centuries Overwhelmed disaster management structures, at national, regional and international due to geographic impact

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Lessons Learned, Hurricane Mitch

San Juan, Puerto Rico

May 23-28, 2000

hurricane mitch
Hurricane Mitch
  • Most powerful hurricane to hit Central America in two centuries
  • Overwhelmed disaster management structures, at national, regional and international due to geographic impact
  • Unprecedented levels of destruction, $3.5 Billion
  • Thousands of shattered lives; two million displaced
  • Four countries seriously affected by the phenomenon; extreme poverty, environmental degradation and poor disaster response resources
hurricane mitch3
Hurricane Mitch

The Setting:

  • Hurricane developed as tropical storm then CAT V, stalled for two days prior to landfall--4.5 feet of rain
  • Impacted impoverished and debt-ridden countries
  • Some recently emerged from prolonged conflict
  • Death toll, homes destroyed, agriculture, health infrastructure, schools, highways, bridges, water and sewage was all on an unprecedented scale
  • Human interventions lie at the root of much of the damage: farmers and urban population without access to adequate land or credit and technical assistance, homes in high-risk areas, deforestation, inappropriate farming practices
hurricane mitch4
Hurricane Mitch

Initial Response:

  • Not well prepared disaster management structures or plans to address the effects of a major disaster, despite the recurrence of major disaster history in the region
  • Sporadic information sharing amongst the affected countries, communities and internal communications breaks
  • As the event unfolded, respective governments were establishing national emergency structures
  • Health sector was better prepared--PAHO
hurricane mitch5
Hurricane Mitch

Relief Effort:

  • Local authorities, churches, NGOs, and civil defense mobilized
  • National, regional and international assistance was generous and massive, but cumbersome and sometimes not coordinated
  • Aid received monitored closely--receiving, storage, registry and distribution by affected nation w/SUMA
  • Over 40 countries provided relief support--equipment, personnel, goods or debt forgiveness


OFDA FundedDoD Air Assets

  • La Ceiba--FOB:
  • 4 x UH-60s
  • JTF Bravo(Soto Cano):
  • 5 x UH- 60s
  • 2 x MH-60s
  • 4 x CH -47s
  • 2 x C-27s
  • 2 x C-130

San Pedro Sula

La Ceiiba



  • Guatemala City:
  • 6 x UH-60s



  • JTF-Aguila (Comalapa)
  • 6 x MH/UH-60s
  • 10 x CH-47s (or equivalent)
  • Managua:
  • 5 x UH-60s
  • 1 x CH-47




Snap Shot of DART OPS During Hurricane Mitch:

10 Nov 98

DoD provided approximately 60% of airlift required in the region; other forces provided the remaining 40%.

summary of u s assistance during hurricane mitch
Summary of U.S. AssistanceDuring Hurricane Mitch
  • USAID/OFDA $30 million
  • USAID/Food for Peace (FFP) $52 million
  • Department of Defense (DOD) $150 million
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) $63 million
  • Development/Micro-credit assistance $5 million
  • Rolls of Plastic Sheeting: 1,434
  • Water Bladders: 39
  • Water Jugs: 53,850
  • Blankets: 22,150
  • Body Bags: 1,004
  • Food: 60,000 Metric Tons

Total USG: $300 Million

hurricane mitch lessons learned
Hurricane Mitch“lessons learned”
  • Emergency Operations systems did not function

-Governments were developing as situation unfolded-political change, changed DM organization

-Existing organizations focused efforts on preparedness and response, need to include prevention and mitigation

  • Lack of coordination/exercising of national emergency plans
hurricane mitch lessons learned9
Hurricane Mitch“lessons learned”
  • Civilian groups marginalized by military who have the resources
  • Coordination efforts centralized in capitol cities
  • Disaster management trained personnel were not available or unable to execute what training known
hurricane mitch lessons learned10
Hurricane Mitch“lessons learned”
  • Better communications required with outlying areas for assessment and reporting
  • Countries overwhelmed with international assistance-not coordinated
  • Early warning is critical at the local, national, and international level
  • Communications and plans need to be known by community leaders--communications and plans have to be horizontal versus vertical
hurricane mitch lessons learned11
Hurricane Mitch“lessons learned”
  • Disaster Preparedness and Planning needs to involve all communities
    • comprehensive training programs at all levels
    • community awareness
    • information management; communication media
    • should be aware of their influence; PIO keeping media informed to avoid confusion, and erroneous reports
    • create a culture of disaster preparedness and mitigation; create awareness for all sectors
hurricane mitch lessons learned12
Hurricane Mitch“lessons learned”
  • Governments and local authorities must ensure that the international donor community’s response is based on reliable and verified needs assessment
  • Information sharing through relief networks
  • Humanitarian Operations Center needs to be established to coordinate efforts with NGO’s, and other international organizations
  • Coordination of efforts between National, local, regional and international organizations
hurricane mitch lessons learned13
Hurricane Mitch“lessons learned”
  • Social Vulnerability, assignment of funds for sustainable living conditions and health/education
hurricane mitch lessons learned14
Hurricane Mitch“lessons learned”
  • Reforestation of areas and legislation on sites for construction
hurricane mitch lessons learned15
Hurricane Mitch“lessons learned”
  • Strengthen Central American integration through existing institutions such as CEPREDENAC and SICA-looking at regional management of water and other natural resources, address shared problems
venezuela s floods lessons learned
Venezuela’s Floods“lessons learned”
  • Lessons learned from Hurricane Mitch in Central America indicate that many of the NEMO’s were unable to assist as trained during the last 10-15 yrs.
  • The same lessons were learned during the December 1999 floods in Venezuela
  • In most of these events, the military was directed to assume duties of the operating NEMO’s
  • Innovative institutional systems are needed to enhance NEMO self sufficiency and military support to civil authorities during disasters
preparedness and planning of foreign regions in the americas
“Preparedness and Planning of Foreign Regions in the Americas ”
  • All countries affected by Mitch have passed legislation creating civil sector agencies for natural disaster and emergency response--CEPREDENAC
  • Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) pro-active with DART, Preparedness/Planning training, initial assistance to affected country
  • USSOUTHCOM Regional Disaster Response Seminars and Training Exercises
preparedness and planning of foreign regions in the americas18
“Preparedness and Planning of Foreign Regions in the Americas ”
  • Central American Disaster Mitigation Initiative-OFDA/USAID
  • Academic Curriculum design/development in DM/HA
  • Scientific research on topics related to DM/HA
  • Collaboration of organizations in region
  • Health sector Psycho-social aspects
  • Private sector involvement