On Monday 10 October, Alejandro Giammattei, President of Guatemala, declared a state of emergency in the face of tropical storm Julia. Since the weekend, Central America has experienced severe flooding due to overflowing rivers, with landslides destroying roads and bridges and many homes damaged. Wind speeds of up to 85mph hit the coastline with thirteen deaths reported across the region. Guatemalan governmental officials are now concerned about the heavy rains that are expected to cause rivers to swell. Many streets in the nearby city of Antigua have already suffered flooding.
Schools in the district of Sacatepequez, where The School of Hope is located, were suspended for the safety of students, many of whom have to walk several miles to school. It's the last week of the summer term at The School of Hope, with final exams due to start on the day the storm hit. The school's closure compounded an already stressful time for our students who have studied hard this year and hope to be successful in testing into the next grade for the start of the new school year in January.
The link between climate change and the incidences of hurricanes in Guatemala is stark. A warming planet can expect stronger and wetter hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms. This article from The New York Times provides an insight into the issue.
In Jocotenango, where The School of Hope is located, erratic and severe weather events have become much more frequent in recent years. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and torrential downpours take their toll on our school, especially the roof which is now 12 years old.
Due to age and increased frequency of severe weather events the school building needs constant maintenance. Leaks and cracked tiles are a common occurrence. Our maintenance teams are constantly working in and outside of the classroom to manage the precarious situation.
We hope that the severe rains hold off and are crossing our fingers that exams can go ahead as planned.