10 August 2016
Catholic News Service
Church struggles to get aid to rural villages as after-effects of Hurricane Earl hit eastern Mexico
Flooding and landslides have made roads impassable in many parts of Puebla and Veracruz
Parish and archdiocesan officials are attempting to assess the needs of isolated and impoverished pockets of eastern Mexico, which were hit hard with heavy rains and mudslides this week, leaving at least 40 dead and dozens of settlements without means of communication.
"At this point, nothing is getting in," said Father Jose Corona Ortega, pastor at the Our Lady of Assumption parish in Huauchinango, some 120 miles east of Mexico City. "We have attended to the few people that have been able to come by [the parish], but the roads are closed."
Tropical Storm Earl, which originally made landfall in Belize as a hurricane, dumped heavy rains on mountainous regions of Puebla and Veracruz. Puebla state officials, who said the storm brought more rain in a few days than an entire month in the normal wet summer, put the death toll at 29, though rescue workers the next day cited higher figures. Veracruz officials put the death toll at 11 in that state.
Father Corona estimated attendance at Mass last Sunday (7 August) to be two-thirds of average numbers. Parishioners donated and collected food, household items and blankets and a group from the social ministry of the Archdiocese of Tulancingo were planning to assess the situation as conditions allowed, said Fr Corona. "Many communities are inaccessible," he added.
Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinosa of Puebla said that three parishes would be turned into shelters, and collections would be held for those displaced.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message on Pope Francis' behalf to those impacted by the storm's destruction. "The Holy Father expresses his affection for the beloved Mexican people, offering his prayers for those who lost their lives and desiring to show his closeness to their families and the victims," the message said.
Pope Francis also prayed that God would "awaken in all a spirit of solidarity" in response to the disaster.
"Sadness in Mexico for the dozens of victims in Puebla and Veracruz due to the passing of Hurricane Earl," the secretary of the Mexican bishops' conference, tweeted. "Our prayers and solidarity", Auxiliary Bishop of Monterrey, Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, said.
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