By Marlon Gonzale, The Associated Press
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) – Hurricane Iota hit Nicaragua with scorching winds and strong surfing, chasing thousands from their homes along the same stretch of the Caribbean on Tuesday, devastated by an equally powerful storm two weeks ago had gone.
The extent of the damage was not clear because much of the affected area was without electricity and phone and Internet service, and strong winds disrupted radio transmissions.
Guillermo Gonzalez, director of the Emergency Management Agency of Nicaragua, said preliminary reports from the coast included trees and electric poles and roofs left from homes and businesses. More than 40,000 people were in the shelter.
Later, Nicaragua vice president and first lady Rosario Murillo said a brother and sister, ages 11 and 8, drowned in the community of La Pinuela in an attempt to cross the submerged Solera River. There were reports of the disappearance of others in the same area.
The day before, Iota intensified into a Category 5 hurricane, but it weakened near the coast and made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (250 kilometers per hour). The system originated as a Category 4 hurricane, also known as billi, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) south of the city of Nicaraguan, Puerto Cabezas. It was just 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of where Hurricane Eta made landfall on November 3, as a Category 4 hurricane.
By Tuesday evening, Iota had subsided to a tropical storm and was moving inland over northern Nicaragua and southern Honduras. It had strong winds of maximum 50 mph (80 kph) and was moving westward at 12 mph (19 kph). The storm was forecast to cross into southern Honduras late Tuesday.
The storm passed about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of Honduras’ capital Tegucigalpa, where rivers were in spate and rain was expected to intensify.
Aid agencies struggled to reach their local contacts, and the government said in a statement that there were no phone services in at least 35 cities in the east and north. Nicaragua’s telecommunications ministry said phone and broadband provider Columbus Networks was offline due to flooding in Bilawi.
Along the far east coast of Honduras, people continued evacuation from damaged and flooded homes.
East Gracias of Honduras was Mirna Wood Teguchigalpa, vice-president of the Miskito ethnic group in a DIOS region who collected donations for her community devastated by the Etas when Ita was killed.
Some 40,000 people from the area were sheltered from low-lands along the rivers and seas, but others remained stranded near the border with Nicaragua. He said that some Nicaraguan officials were rescued.
In his last communication with the community mayor of Willada Morales late on Monday night, he said that his quota was hurting him hard and that the community was not completely evacuated.
“We are facing an incredible emergency,” Wood said. “Do not eat. there is no water.”
Mayor Tenella Pisano Wood said that in the community of Bruce Laguna, about 500 people were in a shelter there and another 900 were being relocated.
“We’re in danger if it rains,” Pisano Wood said.
In the mountainous Tegucilpa, residents of the lower, flood-prone areas were being evacuated in anticipation of Ita rain, as residents of the mountainous areas were hit by landslides.
Panama reported that one person was killed and another was missing in his western indigenous autonomous Ngabe Bugle region near the border with Costa Rica.
As the storm moved westward, flooding became a top concern. The Tola River was predicted to receive the most rainfall, topping its coast, and western Nicaragua along the Pacific coast. Nicaragua’s Meteorological Director, Marcio Bac said that areas where the soil was already saturated would receive 6 to 7 inches of additional rain.
Etah triggered flash floods and mudslides in Central America and parts of Mexico, killing more than 130 people.
Jason Bermudez, a university student at Billy’s, said “this storm is definitely worse” than Eta, before the arrival of IoT in the form of high winds. The roofs, fences and fruit trees of many houses were lost.
“We’ll never forget this year,” Bermudez said.
Even before Iota collided with Nicaragua, it was scattered on the small Colombian island of Providencia, 155 miles (250 km) off the coast of Nicaragua. Colombian President Evan Duyke said one person was killed and 98% of the island’s infrastructure was “affected”.
Providentia is inhabited by British slaves of almost African descent and British colonists who speak the English version of Creole as their native language. The island has no direct flights to the continent, but has become an increasingly popular tourist destination for its serene beaches and rich marine life. On Tuesday, Colombia officials said they were sending a ship with 15 tons of aid to the island.
In the aftermath of Eta, thousands of Hondurans were homeless. There were 74 deaths in the country and around 57,000 people in shelters, mostly in the north.
One of the hardest hit areas was La Lima, a San Pedro Sula suburb that flooded the top of the Chameleon River. Many people whose homes were flooded moved to shelters or lived with relatives. Some were left behind in an attempt to save what was left. Authorities tried to force most of them to go to shelters before coming to Etawah.
On Monday, 34-year-old Wendy Guadalupe was in a coup with a main boulevard in Contreras Paz, La Lima, with her four children and seven other relatives.
“I’ve lost everything, I can’t take anything,” Contreras said. “But my mother and my grandmother have some things, and that’s why we’re staying here, to stay close to home and whatever things are left, prevent them from stealing.”
Iota is the record 30th hurricane of this year’s historically busy Atlantic hurricane season. It is the ninth fastest-growing storm this season, a dangerous phenomenon that is occurring more frequently. Such activity has focused on climate change, which scientists say causes wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
Storm researcher Phil Klotzbach of Kowa State State University said that Kota developed later after the storm on November 5 than any other category. On November 8, 1932, the Cuban storm defeated the Cuban storm.
The hurricane season officially ends on 30 November.
Associated Press writer Seth Borenstein in Bethesda, Maryland; Christopher Sherman in Mexico City; And Manuel Rueda in Bogota, Colombia contributed to this report.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This content may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.