“I closed my eyes and prayed to God."
— Mariana González, Hurricane Mitch survivor
Nicaragua is a country that, due to its accelerated environmental degradation and decline, was “an ecological disaster waiting to happen.” This is why hurricane Mitch, a category 5 hurricane that, although didn’t directly hit the country, had drastic impacts. Nicaragua suffered horrendous indirect effects because people weren’t prepared due to inaccurate predictions and the government’s disregard for warnings. Other factors, like Mitch’s arrival at the end of the rainy season when soil is already saturated with water made the consequences of this hurricane significantly worse than expected.
Mitch was the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane, the deadliest hurricane to hit the Western Hemisphere in more than 200 years, and the deadliest hurricane in Central American history. It left over 10,000 people dead, more than $5 billion in damages for much of the country’s vital infrastructure, and wiped out some of the most important agricultural regions. It was estimated that it would take 15 years to fully recover.
The country’s environmental degradation caused an acceleration in the state of environmental decline. Decades of environmental neglect led to natural disasters like rivers of mud due to heavy rainfall which can bury entire villages. Every year, one hundred thousand hectares are deforested, playing a major role in worsening the impact of hurricanes. Land abuse also leads to other crises in the country like water scarcity and water contamination where in the last 30 years, seventy-five percent of rivers in the Pacific region have dried up and eighty percent of water sources are contaminated. General world climate issues only add to favorable conditions for intensified hurricanes like warm waters and good outflow as ACERCA’s cited “climate change as one of the factors that exacerbated the tragedy caused by Hurricane Mitch”.
Today, it is clear that global climate change will hugely affect the country, as it will many countries around the world. Each year severe weather events will come more often, translating into more hurricanes and worse living conditions and situations for all.