Hurricane Iota, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic this late in the year, slammed into the Nicaraguan coast late Monday, bringing catastrophic winds and pounding rains to some parts of Central America still reeling from the destructive force of Hurricane Eta nearly two weeks earlier.
Iota came ashore only 15 miles south of where Eta made landfall earlier this month, on Nov. 3.
In Puerto Cabezas, about 30 miles north from center of the storm, eyewitnesses said strong winds were bending coconut palms and lower-lying areas had started to flood by late Monday afternoon, leading more residents to scramble toward overcrowded and undersupplied shelters in a poverty-stricken corner of the country.
Thousands of people in the storm’s path had already evacuated from Eta, and were still sheltering inland when Iota hit. But thousands of others, many of them impoverished Indigenous and Afro-Nicaraguans, remained on the ground and in Iota’s path, with hardest-hit areas forecast to receive up to 30 inches of rain.
The hurricanes hit the region at the time when it is already roiling not only from the aftermath of Eta, but from the socioeconomic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which is spiking poverty and food insecurity in the region.
Nicaraguan authorities estimated 80,000 families will be affected by Iota, both in coastal communities where the hurricane will hit directly and in other parts of the country that could experience flooding and deadly landslides.
The government has prepared nearly 1,300 shelters, according Nicaragua’s National System for the Prevention, Mitigation and Attention of Disasters (SINAPRED).
Some residents in areas previously hit by Eta told Nicaraguan media they didn’t want to evacuate their homes now because they feared looting if they abandoned them.
Vittoria Peñalba, director of sustainability for the aid group World Vision in Nicaragua, said 50,000 coastal dwellers had been evacuated over the weekend and on Monday, a process hampered by roads left washed out and bridges pulverized in Eta’s wake.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami showed Iota losing strength into Tuesday while tracking toward more densely population centers in Honduras, where devastating mudslides from Eta have already left more than 100 dead.
Source: Washington Post