First Person: Witness To Devastation

CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts gives this first person report from Nicaragua where he was on assignment Monday for The CBS Evening News. He witnessed the floods and mudslides unleashed by Hurricane Mitch and gave the following special report to

The situation is devastating. The chief physician at a hospital in Chinandega, north of Managua, said there are 10,000 residents in the area, but only a few hundred have been located.

During the past two days, the hospital has performed 28 surgeries a day, doing everything from treating broken bones to amputating limbs.

One man said the mudslide came so quickly that when he and his family went behind the house to hide, they were buried under their house for four days. Two of his six children died.

Victims of the mudslide look as though they have been in fire; the skin has been scraped off their faces from being dragged in the mud.

There is very limited relief available, and the worst areas are the most difficult to reach. Some villages are buried under several feet of mud. The government was forced to make a decision to bury people where they were found because there is so much to do and there are so few people to do it.

Huge swaths of land have disappeared. Where yesterday a flat field stood, there is now a canyon. In some places, the mud cut a path 20 feet deep and 10 feet wide. Some were even larger.

A volcanic crater in one area filled with water from the four feet of rain that fell in two days. The crater collapsed and fell onto the villages below.

With medical resources already limited, people now must deal with disease brought by floodwaters. People are also running out of food.

One woman said she is worried how she's going to feed her family. She said, "Our fate is in the hands of God."
Reported by Byron Pitts.
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