Air Logistics

Panama: Hurricane Eta DREF Operation n° MDRPA013 – Final Report – Panama

A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

Tropical storm Eta, which formed in the Atlantic on the night of 31 October 2020, became a hurricane as it passed over the central Caribbean Sea some 835 km northeast of the Panamanian city of Colón (Colón province). Eta made landfall in Nicaragua as a category 4 hurricane on 3 November 2020, and while Eta did not make landfall in Panama, the country experienced heavy rains, floods, and landslides.

On 4 November 2020, the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC) declared a yellow alert for the province of Chiriquí following reports of several incidents in the Tierras Altas district, specifically in the towns of Cerro Punta, Paso Ancho and Volcán. All emergency response institutions were on alert as a result.

Collateral effects from the rain bands related to the tropical storm were reported in Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro, Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, Veraguas, Coclé, and Panamá Oeste in western Panama. More than 300 mm of accumulated rain was reported in most of the affected areas, and flooding of the Chiriquí Viejo, Fonseca, Jacú, and Tabasará rivers. All rivers in Chiriquí province reached their highest levels, causing severe flooding, landslides, road blockages, collapsed and destroyed roads, fallen trees, and damaging and destroying homes. The floods damaged agricultural lands as well.

The President of the Republic of Panama activated the Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) to enable all entities to jointly coordinate the response and assistance necessary to maintain a contingency front. On 7 November, the government declared an emergency in Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí, Coclé, Herrera, and Comarca Ngäbe Buglé. State sources had reported 19 people dead and 12 missing due to the emergency as of 13 November, as well 918 people rescued and evacuated through the joint task force.

The government set up official collective centres to assist the evacuated population. All people in collective centres were tested for COVID-19, and those who tested positive were housed in hotels and other places.

The Panamanian government opened 29 temporary collective centres in Chiriquí province, providing shelter to 3,843 people. As of 7 November, the Ministry of Housing and Land Use Planning had reported 999 homes damaged by floods, landslides and collapsed roofs, mostly in Comarca Ngäbe Buglé (597) and Chiriquí (248). Water sources, including water production sites, were also severely affected.

Panama has been experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, with a 14-day cumulative incidence of 234 cases per 100,000 inhabitants as of 9 November. Lockdown measures have been recently eased, and trade blocs have been re-established to facilitate economic recovery. Face masks are mandatory, and a daily curfew is in place from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am.

As of 18 November 2020, the WASH lines of action in the operational plan included deployment, operation, and maintenance of a water treatment plant. DANA actions included in assessments identified many people with no access to safe water; however, the rivers’ high turbidity levels due to continued rainfall at their source made it impossible to put into operation the water treatment plant that was initially contemplated. Furthermore, the communities of Corotú Civil and Majagual do not have access to drinking water. Residents get their water from boreholes, which were flooded and contaminated with coliforms.

Summary of the response

Overview of Host National Society Response Action

The Panamanian Red Cross (PRC) alerted 23 local committees in ten provinces across the country, activating volunteers with specialized training.

The Panamanian Red Cross is made up of 88 administrative staff and 1,200 active volunteers. Seven volunteer members of the Regional Intervention Team (RIT) and 80 members of the national response teams (Health, Water and Sanitation, General, PSS, Livelihoods and Migration) were activated;…

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