The Junta de Andalucía's Social Services department was overwhelmed by calls from families across the region after announcing a campaign to take in children who had become victims of hurricane Mitch, which struck central America in October and November 1998.
The regional government was forced to make an announcement that the arrangements would only be temporary and that the children would have to return to their country of origin eventually after enquiries were made about adoption and call centres in the eight provinces collapsed due to the amount of interest.
"No child will become the subject of adoption," announced Isaías Pérez Saldaña, then head of Social Services at the Junta de Andalucía. Pérez Saldaña added that the campaign aimed to &ldquoprovide a temporary solution to the tragedy&rdquo of millions of children who had lost parents as a result of the devastation caused the hurricane.
The regional government organised the initiative along with the embassies of the countries affected and Andalusian families were told that it would be governments of those countries who would determine how long the children should be away from home for. However, the Social Services chief, who travelled to Nicaragua and Honduras to finalise the details of the initiative, was keen for the children to spend Christmas in Spain.
Forty per cent, or around six million children, were affected by the disaster which hit Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala between the end of October and early November 1998.
The Junta also suggested alternative ways of helping the children, such as sponsoring them so that they could be helped in their own countries or organising fundraising events and donating food and other essential items.
SUR launched a survey on 11 November 1998 asking readers whether or not they supported the initiative.
Hurricane Mitch formed in the western Caribbean Sea on 22 October and grew to become a category five storm - the highest possible category. It slowly progressed through central America between 29 October and 3 November, dropping historic amounts of rainfall in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Deaths due to catastrophic flooding made it the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in history at the time after the Great Hurricane of 1780. Nearly 11,000 people were killed with over 11,000 left missing by the end of 1998.