Iota, a hurricane turned tropical storm, weakened in El Salvador on Wednesday. Previously, it left at least 14 dead and extensive damage in Central America, already devastated two weeks ago by a previous hurricane, Eta.
On Wednesday, the Nicaraguan authorities announced the death of four people, including three children, in a landslide in the department of Matagalpa (north). This country, where tens of thousands of people are still isolated, without drinking water or electricity, is paying the heaviest price, ten people in total having lost their lives. Iota also killed one in Panama, one in El Salvador and two others in a Colombian archipelago.
The Salvadoran Ministry of the Environment announced that, according to forecasts, Iota lost some of its intensity during its passage in El Salvador. But heavy rains continued to fall in northern Nicaragua.
After amassing energy in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, Iota made landfall in that country on Monday as a Category 5 hurricane, the highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It was then accompanied by strong winds sometimes reaching 260 km / hour, according to the American hurricane monitoring center, the NHC, which has its headquarters in Miami (Florida).
“Really significant damage”
A government official for the northern Nicaraguan region of the Caribbean, Yamil Zapata, said on Wednesday that Iota had hit infrastructure hard in Bilwi, the main city in that part of Nicaragua. This hurricane “arrived and finished” destroying everything “what Eta had left standing”, explained Mr. Zapata, adding that many houses were damaged.
“The damage is really important,” Zapata told local media. Bilwi, which has more than 40,000 inhabitants, was however able to recover the use of cell phones on Tuesday and the victims began to clean up the rubble on Wednesday.
“There is nothing left, the hurricane swept away all the houses that were on the coast,” Esteban Moore, who himself lost his house, told AFP. In total, more than 110,000 homes are without electricity and more than 47,000 no longer have running water, according to the Nicaraguan authorities.
For its part, Honduras, where the tropical storm had arrived on Tuesday, suffered flooding, but does not deplore any casualties, the storm having swept faster than expected the south of its territory. The capital Tegucigalpa, which has a population of one million, was spared from the torrential rains, but the flooding of rivers caused scenes of panic in its poor outskirts.
The towns of La Lima, El Progreso and other localities in the Sula Valley, near San Pedro Sula, the second largest agglomeration in Honduras, already reached by Eta, suffered the heaviest rains.
Heavy rains also fell in Guatemala, where the previous hurricane left 46 people dead and 96 missing, with rivers swollen and trees fallen on the roads, but no casualties, according to the authorities. In Colombia, two people were killed and another was reported missing on two Colombian islands, Santa Catalina and Providencia, where much of the infrastructure was destroyed.
In Panama, a woman from an indigenous community has perished and some 2,000 people are staying in shelters, authorities said. Flooding and flash flooding could continue in Central America through Thursday due to torrential rains, according to the NHC.
Eta made landfall on November 3 in Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane. It had killed at least 200 people and affected 2.5 million people in Central America.
Warming seas caused by climate change make hurricanes stronger longer after they make landfall, scientists say. A record 30 tropical storms have been recorded this season in the Caribbean, Central America and the southeastern United States.
The heads of state of Central American countries have accused industrialized countries of being responsible for global warming. They together presented a request for reconstruction aid to international financial organizations on Monday.