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Honduras maps its new country

IN TERMS of world attention, last year's Hurricane Mitch put Honduras on the map. But the floods and landslides nearly wiped the little Central American nation off it.

So great was the damage cartographers are redrawing the map of the country. Mitch widened rivers, wiped away entire villages, killed more than 5,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands to relocate.

"The hurricane changed the course of rivers and disrupted the geographical situation of numerous highways, railways and the location of human settlements," said Noe Pineda Portilo, head of the country's National Geographical Institute, which is about to start the project.

Light aircraft, which have just completed distributing aid around the country, will be flown again to take photo-graphs that will be used as a basis for the new national map.

They will concentrate on banana-producing areas in the north and south and near the Nicaraguan border, where five days of torrential post-Mitch rains did the worst damage.

In the northern area around Trujillo tidal waves wiped out entire towns, extending the coast inland by up to a mile in some places. The main road through the coastal town ofSanta Rosa de Aguan now looks like a river after the Caribbean ocean spilt inland.

In the capital, Tegucigalpa, the Choluteca river burst its banks and, more than three months later, is still several times wider than it was before.