Nicaragua experiences historic day of hazards

December 7, 2016

November 24, 2016, was a big day for Nicaragua. Category 2 Hurricane Otto made history as it swept across the southern part of the country, breaking three records including southernmost hurricane landfall ever recorded in Central America, the latest-in-season hurricane landfall ever recorded in the entire Atlantic Basin, and the strongest hurricane ever recorded so late in the season. As the eye of the storm left the Caribbean Sea and passed near the town of San Juan de Nicaragua, sustained maximum winds of 110 miles per hour and heavy rains downed trees and brought mudslides and flooding to the region.

Just one hour after Hurricane Otto made landfall, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. The earthquake triggered a tsunami warning for the Pacific coast and tremors could be felt across the entire region. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared a State of Emergency in response to the multiple hazard events of the day.

The events of November 24 highlight the need for governments and organizations responsible for disaster management in Nicaragua to invest time and resources into research and preparation, and Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) is currently supporting work to address this need by conducting “National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment” (NDPBA) projects.

Started in September 2013 with the goal of helping vulnerable areas of the world assess their ability to cope with and respond to disaster events, this stakeholder-driven approach to data collection, data analysis, and disaster management brings organizations already operating in a region together to assess risk and vulnerability (RVA) and understand current capacity for comprehensive disaster management (CDM). The NDPBA method ensures that all participating organizations have a shared sense of ownership in finding solutions to regional challenges and that they are working toward common goals, which is key for understanding local challenges and maintaining independence from foreign organizations and governments.

On November 28, just four days after Hurricane Otto and the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, PDC held the Nicaragua Midterm Workshop and Knowledge Exchange in Managua, Nicaragua, as a part of the ongoing NDPBA project that began there in October 2015. In partnership with Nicaragua’s leading disaster management agency Sistema Nacional para la Prevención, Mitigación y Atención de Desastres (SINAPRED), 70 participants representing 45 different organizations came together to hear the preliminary findings of the RVA and CDM assessments for their country. The Knowledge Exchange allowed the group to share experiences, lessons learned, and information as they discussed strategies and prepared to move forward into the next phase of the project.

After the successful Midterm Workshop and data discussions with teams from government agencies at national, departmental and municipal levels, PDC is looking forward to continuing to work with Nicaragua and SINAPRED in early 2017 to do additional data gathering and to share project results.

The NDPBA project is sponsored by US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and is currently underway in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Honduras in addition to the work being done in Nicaragua.

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