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28 Oct

The main street of Santiago.

We drove in the clouds, winding along roads pockmarked from recent mudslides. The afternoon skies disappeared in a blanket of thick gray mist as we . Getting to Santiago before dark was essential, we were told, because it’s impossible to see the roads at night. As the mist cleared, we saw our destination – a village of around 150,000 that rests at the base of a volcano.  Earthquakes are common, though few are strong enough to do damage. What did do damage to Santiago’s neighboring village, Panabaj, in 2005 was Hurricane Stanley. The storm filled the cone of the volcano, and the internal pressure caused a large section of the top to break way, literally covering the town in mud and rock.  Entire neighborhoods disappeared, along with a school, hospital and police station. The village has been slowly rebuilding, though many areas are considered unfit for habitation.  The Guatemalan government received substantial support from the US and other countries, but aid to those impacted has been minimal.  Only recently has a neighborhood of permanent housing been designed and built. Children who lost their families during the mudslide now live with relatives or in orphanages in other parts of the country. Driving past the cinderblock rubble is a haunting reminder of how quickly life can change – forever.

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