UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 3 -- A U.N. spokesman says the world organization's first experts are arriving in Central America to assess needs in the wake of deadly Hurricane Mitch. At U.N. headquarters today, the ambassadors of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua appealed for international assistance.
They later met with Secretary-General Kofi Annan. World Food Program Regional Director for Nicaragua Francisco Roque- Castro, based in Managua, said beyond the loss of life and homes, 'it seems that the region has stepped back 20 years in one day.' Over 100,000 tons of food previously set for WFP development projects has been diverted to cover urgent needs in Nicaragua and Honduras, the hardest hit of the countries. Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for Annan, said UNICEF was distributing medicines and up to 500,000 packets of oral rehydration salts for children suffering from diarrhea in Nicaragua. In Honduras, the agency began handing out food and supplying clean water. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has dispatched disaster management teams to the area. The first team arrived in Honduras today, and a second is expected in Nicaragua on Wednesday. The Honduras ambassador to the United Nations, Hugo Noe'-Pino, said no dollar amount has been set for assistance being sought for the region, because needs have not been determined. He said in Honduras alone, some 5,000 people have died, 75 bridges have collapsed, 70 percent of national production has been lost and half a million people are in shelters. He said his preliminary estimate of the damage is no less than $2 billion, with losses to banana companies alone close to $850,000. ---
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