Things That Matter

Tropical Storm Leaves At Least 20 Dead In El Salvador And Now Threatens The U.S. Gulf Coast

The 2020 Hurricane season is off to a very strong start – in fact, it’s a record breaking one. The season officially started on June 1st, however, we’re only on June 3rd and there have already been three named storms. Even before the season got started, officials were warning of an above average season and it seems their predictions are playing out.

Tropical Storm Amanda killed at least 20 people when it struck El Salvador, unleashing flooding and landslides.

After making landfall in El Salvador, Tropical Storm Amanda has been blamed for at least 20 deaths in the country. Officials there say that more than 7,000 people have been taken into shelters as the country attempts to recover from the devastating effects.

Torrential rains and strong winds destroyed hundreds of homes and left highways and roads out of service, stranding many in very dangerous situations.

Carolina Recinos, a senior aide to President Nayib Bukele, said the storm had dumped the equivalent of “almost 10 percent” of the annual rainfall on the country in a relatively short span of time.

Bukele declared a 15-day state of emergency to cope with the effects of Amanda, which he estimated to have caused $200 million in damage.

“We’ve never experienced this,” Maria Torres, whose house was damaged, told the Associated Press news agency. “The rain was so strong and suddenly, the water entered the homes, and we just saw how they fell.”

The storm came as the country of some 6.6 million people is grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Credit: @Minerva_Juarez / Twitter

To date, El Salvador has reported 2,582 confirmed Covid-19 infections and 46 related deaths. It’s not been as hard hit as many other Latin American countries, but experts agree that the country is poorly equipped to handle any further strain.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented situation: one top-level emergency on top of another serious one,” said San Salvador Mayor Ernesto Muyshondt.

The country had already instituted some of the most strict lockdown measures across the region. Even a trip to the market is heavily regulated – you’re only allowed access depending on the numbers in your identity documents, and residents aren’t allowed to cross municipal boundaries, even to buy food or medicine.

The storm also lashed other countries across Central America.

Credit: @Minerva_Juarez / Twitter

Both Guatemala and Honduras were also badly hit by the storm. In Honduras, four were left dead after they were swept away by rising flood waters. Meanwhile, several communities were left buried under feed of mud and debris and mudslides happened across the country.

Two people were also killed and two injured in Guatemala, where authorities reported 500 homes damaged.

After weakening, the storm has now reformed as Tropical Storm Cristobal and could pose a risk to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Credit: NOAA

Tropical Storm Amanda weakened after impacting Central America and then entered the Gulf of Mexico, where it’s since reorganized into a new Tropical Storm – this time named Cristobal. This marks the first time in history that there have been three named storms so early in the hurricane season. Typically, the third named storm does not brew until way later in the season, occurring on average around Aug. 13

The weather disturbance is expected to move through the Gulf of Mexico in the coming days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, and is likely to severely impact the Mexican coastline in the coming days.

The storm is expected to take a northward turn, and it could gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico prior to reaching the southern United States coastline.

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Katherine Díaz, Salvadorian Surfing Star and Olympic Hopeful, Died After Being Struck By Lightening

Things That Matter

Katherine Díaz, Salvadorian Surfing Star and Olympic Hopeful, Died After Being Struck By Lightening

Photo via isasurfing/Instagram

A tragedy born from a freak accident is rocking El Salvador’s athletic community today. On Friday, El Salvador surfing star and Olympic hopeful, Katherine Diaz, died after being struck by lightening. She was training for an Olympic qualifier.

According to reports, lightning struck and killed 22-year-old Katherine Díaz right after she entered the water at El Tunco beach.

“Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard,” her uncle Beto Dia “She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly.”

According to NBC News, onlookers pulled Katherine Diaz to the shore and attempted to revive her, but by that time, it was too late.

Her family, of course, is mourning the loss of their loved one. “We were very close,” her sister, Erika Diaz said to a local publication. “Katherine was a girl full of energy, with a free spirit who made everyday feel worthwhile. Unfortunately, she left us.” But Erika said she is glad that her sister passed while doing what she loved the most–surfing.

Katherine Díaz had dedicated her life to the complicated and rewarding sport of surfing.

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A post shared by KATHERINE DIAZ (@katherinecook7)

Katherine Díaz Hernández had been surfing since she was 9-years-old. The 22-year-old was training to qualify for the 2021 Summer Olympics–the first time surfing would ever appear at the international games.

El Salvador’s surfing federation, FESASURF, released a statement lauding Díaz for her talent. “Katherine was a girl very passionate about sports, she was very motivated and happy for the event that was approaching.”

The International Surfing Association posted a tribute to Diaz on their Instagram page.

“Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport,” they wrote. “She excelled at the international competition level, representing her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.”

“We send our heartfelt condolences to Katherine’s family, the surfers of El Salvador, and to all those in the international surfing community whose lives she touched. We will never forget you.”

El Salvador’s surfing community has planned a “paddle-out” ceremony that is traditional in the death of a surfer.

According to Surfer Today, a paddle-out ceremony is “an ocean-based ceremony consisting of a mix of spiritual, metaphysical, and ritual actions that acknowledge, remember, and celebrate a fallen peer.”

“It’s a symbolic rite of passage that showcases traces of connection and separation, departure, and continuity.”

Katherine Díaz’s funeral services were on Saturday morning. The paddle-out ceremony will be held on Tuesday.

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El Salvador’s ‘Total Abortion Ban’ Is Landing Women Who Have Accidentally Miscarried in Jail

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El Salvador’s ‘Total Abortion Ban’ Is Landing Women Who Have Accidentally Miscarried in Jail

Photo via Getty Images

The right for a woman to decide what to do with her body is a controversial subject in much of Latin America. Some countries, like Argentina, are slowly becoming less conservative in their approach to reproductive rights. Other countries–like El Salvador–have stayed the same.

El Salvador is a country that has some of the most prohibitive anti-abortion laws in the world.

Along with Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, El Salvador is one of the Latin American countries that does not permit abortion under any circumstances. El Salvador has a “total abortion ban” policy.

Next week, El Salvador’s total abortion ban will be analyzed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Since 1998, 140 women have gone to jail for illegally terminating their pregnancies in El Salvador. Many of these women say that they are innocent of the charges.

One of the most famous of such cases is the case of a woman that simply goes by “Manuela”.

In 2008, Manuela went to jail for illegally terminating her pregnancy. When Manuela was seven months pregnant, she went to the hospital because she was suffering from a miscarriage.

When the 33-year-old mother of two was receiving medical care, she was accused of having an abortion. She was convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years in prison. After 2 years, Manuela died behind bars. She had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma–a disease that had caused her to miscarry her pregnancy.

“Manuela was the victim of a State that does not protect the life and health of women, that discriminates and criminalizes them for having natural complications of pregnancy and does not provide guarantees to protect the confidentiality between medical staff and patients,” said Catalina Martínez Coral, the regional Latin American director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

Next week, a woman named Sara will appear in court for allegedly terminating her pregnancy in 2012.

But Sara’s lawyers said she did not intentionally end her pregnancy. They say she accidentally miscarried after she slipped and fell doing dishes. At the hospital, Police detained Sara. Sara is now in prison with a 30 year sentence.

“Sara’s hearing offers a new opportunity to do right by her and the hundreds of women who have been forced to mourn the loss of their pregnancy from a prison cell,” writes SKDK communications director Tania Mercado.

Like Mercado, Catalina Martínez Coral believes these upcoming trials are a chance for El Salvador to change its draconian abortion laws.

“We want El Salvador to assume the international responsibility it has evaded for years despite the repeated calls from multiple human rights organizations to review the legislation that causes this unjust criminalization of women,” she said.

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