Massive relief operations are underway to rescue tens of thousands of people who became victims of Hurricane Mitch, mostly in Nicaragua and Honduras. The death toll, which is estimated to be over 10,000 is expected to rise due to hunger and disease (Down To Eartk Vol 7, No 14). According to the United Nations World Food Programme, in Honduras alone, over 70,000 people will need food aid in the next few months. In Nicaragua, the number of people rendered homeless is estimated at 900,000, dose to 20 per cent of the population. The losses are enormous. 300 schools were destroyed, too bridges were washed away, and some of Nicaragua's richest farmlands were destroyed. "The social sector will be much harder to handle because of severe uncinployment and lack of housing and water," said Honduras finance minister Gabriela Nunez. According to the aid agencies, repairing the infrastructure alone will take more than US $200 milfion.

European Union nations, Japan and China have rushed emergency aid to the region. The US also announced US $90 million emergency assistance and is planning a reconstruction programme for Central America. Cuban President Fidel Castro said his country will send 2,000 doctors to Central America to help save thousands of lives. This would be a form of 'revenge' on the Hurricane Mitch, said Castro.

Various celebrities have also offered their help to the victims. The wife of US vice-president Al Gore spent two days in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, where she joined assembly line filling aid packages and distributing supplies to homeless refugees. other visitors included Colombian First lAdy Nobra Pastrants, Hillary Rodhaust Clinton, wife of US president Bill Clinton and Binaca Jagger, ex-wife of the Rolling Stones singer Mike Jagger.

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