Disasters & Accidents

Provoked by nature and by people, Tegucigalpa hills slide away

Tegucigalpa, Sep 21 (EFE).- The hills of the capital of Honduras, once a mining town, keep sliding away in disasters caused both by nature and people, with thousands of families settled in high-risk areas.

“It all boils down to the fact that there is a growth of Tegucigalpa in a disorderly manner… not only in the physical aspect, but also the population,” geographer Carlos Sabillón told EFE on Wednesday.

The disorderly expansion of the city, according to Sabillón, responds to land ownership where those who do not have access to safe and flat areas to build have been forced to live in unsafe areas.

“This is the product of those forces that govern the market, where the powerful have appropriated the best land in the city that used to be land for agricultural crops or livestock, but that over time have become part of the city and today are developments,” he added.

People have been forced to settle in areas such as the banks of ravines and rivers or in uninhabitable areas, said Sabillón.

The other adverse factor is the topography of the city, which is irregular, and although there are flat areas, they were formed by the passage of the rivers that cross the Honduran capital.

According to experts, Tegucigalpa is crossed by some 20 geological faults, and there are several areas that should not have been inhabited because the soil is like clay and with the rains it begins to give way, as has happened in the last two weeks in the Guillén, Santa Rosa and El Reparto neighborhoods, among others.

Some landslides happen over time, and some all of a sudden. The current slips have destroyed around 200 homes.

“As there has been no planning for land use, people have gone to live where freeloaders have sold them land – even if it is not theirs – or where they can acquire land to build on, without taking into account whether it’s habitable,” emphasized Sabillón.

The damage in the affected areas is now due to the rain, with landslides on loose soil where construction should not have taken place, Sabillón said.

Landslides in Tegucigalpa are not new, but despite repeated calls to evacuate, the poor resisted moving because they had nowhere to go and did not receive help from local authorities, according to what at least two victims told EFE.

Rixi Bueso said that the authorities came to evacuate families that lived in the Guillén neighborhood, which looks as if it had been destroyed by an earthquake, but that they did not leave because the municipal authorities did not fulfill their promises to take them to a safe place.

“We cannot evacuate to a school because the children are still in classes. After a week they take us out and we practically end up on the street,” he said.

Residents of the affected area have watched the land slowly sliding, dragging everything in its path and spreading to other neighborhoods.

“I have lived here in Guillén for 36 years. I have four children, my mother too. This is the third time (that a landslide has occurred): the first in 1998 – every ten or thirteen years,” Bueso said.

Cristian Betanco, 29, was born in Guillén, where he has always lived in a house made of wood.

When the collapse began, Betanco and his family started to disassemble the house to salvage things, but then the land was completely destroyed.

“We have nowhere to go – we are a large family, the land was destroyed. We need an answer to be able to leave and start from scratch with help, because we have children and elderly people in the family, without the strength to work,” he added. EFE gr/tw

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