Source: The Guardian
Author: Nina Lakhani
It was around dusk on the third consecutive day of heavy rain when the River Aguán burst its banks and muddy waters surged through the rural community of Chapagua in north-east Honduras, sweeping away crops, motorbikes and livestock.
Most inhabitants fled to higher ground after the category 4 Hurricane Eta made landfall in early November 2020, but fisherman Rosendo García stayed behind, hoping to safeguard the family’s home and animals. After a ravine on the opposite side of the village also flooded, there was no way out.
Inside his single-storey brick house, the water quickly rose from knee-deep to chest high. “It was so fast, like milk when it boils,” said García, 55.
He escaped once the water subsided a few days later with just one pig, a few chickens and a dog.
But shortly after, a landslide carried the entire house into the river, taking everything the family owned, including fishing nets, furniture and most of the animals. More than 40 sacks of freshly harvested corn were ruined, the once-fertile land buried under sand. Garcia’s entire extended family was left destitute.
“We are poor people but in Chapagua we never felt poor. We always had enough to eat, we could hunt, fish and farm, but we lost all of that,” said García. “It’s hard to be displaced. We’re starting again from zero and we’re totally on our own.”
With nowhere else to go, the family piled up soil and sand to create an island on the swampy edge of a lagoon, and built a new home. The house – made from plywood, sticks, cement and metal sheets – is surrounded by salty water.
García is building a wall from old tyres and sandbags in the hope of keeping the tide at bay, but the sea is rising and the tides are getting stronger. Shining a flashlight into the crab holes reveals that the tidewater is only a foot or so below the surface.
“When it thunders, the house shakes like a bucket floating in water,” said Nanda Morales, 59, García’s wife. “We are living through climate change in real time.”