Tegucigalpa, Nov 27 (efe-epa).- Honduras needs “external funds” to restore vital infrastructure after being battered by two hurricanes in the space of two weeks, an official of the country’s investment-promotion agency said Friday.
It will require a minimum of 12 billion lempiras ($487 million) to address the damage done by Hurricanes Eta and Iota, Invest-H Commissioner Gustavo Boquin said.
The storms destroyed 45 bridges across the Central American nation and left 55 others damaged, along with hundreds of kilometers of roadway, he said.
“This is a never-before-seen catastrophe,” he said.
Invest-H’s $182.5 million annual budget is insufficient to cope with the emergency, meaning that Honduras must obtain financing from abroad in the form of aid or loans, Boquin said.
More than 3.5 million of the country’s 9.6 million inhabitants have been affected by the powerful storms and the devastation of basic infrastructure has crippled the coffee sector, producers of Honduras’ chief export.
All but 39 of 224 municipalities where the bean is grown are effectively isolated as the roads serving those areas are impassable, according to the Honduran Coffee Institute (Ihcafe).
Flooding has slashed coffee output by up to 7.17 million kg (15.8 million lbs.) and rendered as much as 4,199 hectares (10,370 acres) of land unsuitable for cultivation in the next growing season, Ihcafe says.
Boquin said that Invest-H will prioritize road repair in the coffee-growing areas, “taking into account that if the production fails $1 billion in exports are jeopardized.”
“The first package of 1,400km (870mi) is identified, for which companies have begun to mobilize equipment to begin immediately with the repair, while attention will start next week with the second package of 1,600 (km),” he said.
More than a week after Iota lashed Honduras with high winds and torrential rains, thousands of people are still in shelters while thousands more wait for help in communities cut off by flooding.
In the northern city of San Pedro Sula, the country’s business hub, Ramon Villeda Morales International Airport remains closed.
The Consultative Council, created in the wake of the hurricanes to advise the government on reconstruction, said Friday that it will function with complete independence and that it wants to hear from all sectors of society.
“The Council will not administer funds or projects, will not award contracts or make financial assignations,” the body said in a statement.
Comprised of former officials and civil servants, the Council said it will formulate a proposal for reconstruction based on a detailed damage appraisal carried out by experts from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Resources will be used in a “transparent, efficient, sustainable” manner in pursuit of “measurable results” that improve “the conditions of life and well-being in Honduras,” the Council said. EFE