October 8, 2007

Hurricanes are good for business

blogicito visits
That's a graph of blogicito visitors for 30 days ending three days after Hurricane Felix. What a difference a hurricane makes. Too bad I wasn't charging admission to the blogicito. ;-)

La Gringa had her 15 seconds of fame on CNN! The newscaster didn't seem too thrilled with my answers and demanded to know, "Why not?!" when I said we weren't going to evacuate. I was also contacted by email by the UK's BBC, but unfortunately my internet connection was out and I didn't get the email until it was too late.

La Prensa reported that the supermarkets did a booming business from people stocking up for the duration. Sadly, the hardware stores weren't quite so lucky as very few people in Honduras feel the need to do any preparations for a hurricane.

The news organizations went crazy with all sorts of exaggerated reports, even to the point of apparently showing video of the hurricane from other countries and calling it Honduras. CNN showed video of rain and high winds blowing palm trees under the banner "Live from La Ceiba" approximately 12 hours BEFORE a single drop of rain fell in La Ceiba.

On Monday and Tuesday, the day that Hurricane Felix hit, I was busy checking the National Hurricane Center and watching the Honduran news, so I wasn't so aware of wildly exaggerated reports about what was happening in Honduras, until I began to notice the huge increase in blogicito visitors and began receiving emails from people all over the world worried about their friends and relatives. At that point, I decided to put the blogicito to good use and post eye witness reports from all over Honduras.

This photo was widely published as being from La Ceiba, Honduras. Interestingly, the file name is "12nicar.jpg" which kind of sounds like it might be from Nicaragua, not Honduras, doesn't it? Too bad we can't see the license plate.

Photos of people up to their waist in flood waters in La Ceiba were widely
published and circulated, but people in La Ceiba at the time said that couldn't have happened. They believe the photos were file photos from some other year. I was watching the La Ceiba news at noon and live video showed a "disappointing" 1-2 inches (3-5 cm.) of water in the streets.

The Honduran government reported that 34,000 people were in shelters nationwide at the height of the crisis, but the US newspapers reported that there were 300,000 in Tegucigalpa alone. Hmmm. I understand showing the most shocking photos and exciting video, but I would have expected a little more accuracy, at least in the numbers.

Honduran politicians, never missing an early campaign opportunity to solicit a vote, began passing out humanitarian aid in plastic bags with their photos emblazoned on the bag.
One Honduran called it an insult to the intelligence and a vulgar act of opportunism. When asked to stop that practice, the Tribunal Superior de Electoral decided that it was just dandy and not a problem at all. There were many accusations that the aid was being politicized and given to "friends of the party."

Then, the worst of all, in my opinion, one La Ceiba charity sent out an email plea for donations on the very day of the Category 5 Hurricane Felix. The email indicated Hondurans need your help and that fire engines and ambulances were needed. One problem is that the hurricane had already been downgraded to Category 1 at the time of the email. Another is that this charity isn't in the business of humanitarian aid nor have they ever donated fire engines and ambulances to communities.

The government of Honduras will probably come out way ahead. There were only limited areas that had any Hurricane effects. Donations from other countries, including US$6.7 million from Japan, will provide plenty for the corruptos and may even leave a little left over for the people. Humanitarian aid teams and private mission groups will pick up the slack.

Old damage to at least one bridge was reported as hurricane damage even though that area did not have ANY effects at all from the hurricane. That bridge had been damaged for at least a year, if not longer, and it's possible that this same bridge and others could be used over and over again to obtain aid.

Nothing like a good natural disaster for lining the pockets.

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