Hurricane Willa weakened overnight to a Category 3 storm, but the hurricane could still bring devastating storm surge, wind and rain to Mexico’s Pacific Coast, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The storm is expected to make landfall south of Mazatlan on Tuesday evening, and evacuations have been taking place in low-lying areas of Sinaloa state to protect residents from potential flooding.
Based on the storm strength and the affected population in the forecast path, Willa could potentially have a high humanitarian impact. Tailing close behind is Tropic Storm Vicente, flooding from which has already resulted in 12 deaths in Oaxaca state from flooding and mudslides. Direct Relief is in contact with COPAC, Mexico’s central emergency operations center, and has begun to evaluate needs and response strategies. COPAC has deployed level 1 and 2 emergency medical units to the states of Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa in preparation for Willa’s landfall Tuesday morning. Mexico’s government is not requesting international assistance at this time.
Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco, the three states projected to experience the largest impact from the approaching storm, have moderate poverty indicators, with 30 to 50 percent of their populations living under the poverty line as defined by Mexico’s federal demographic parameters. Communities with substandard housing in low-lying areas, particularly those in flood zones or vulnerable to storm surge, are the communities of focus for evacuation and relief preparations.
In the case that Direct Relief’s assistance is needed, staff in Mexico are well positioned to activate a swift response. Direct Relief is a Mexican-registered NGO with ample, medical grade storage space, and working relationships with the National Ministry of Health, COPAC and the Pan American Health Organization.
Direct Relief played a crucial role in response efforts to the two large earthquakes that hit Mexico City and Oaxaca in September of 2017, mobilizing $3 million worth of specifically requested emergency medical resources through 21 shipments to multiple healthcare facilities in five states.