QCOSTARICA – Hurricane Iota strengthened this Monday and rose to category 4 on its way to Central America, where authorities evacuated thousands of people to minimize risks.
The region was recently devastated by the passage of Eta, just two weeks ago.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) indicated that Iota became a category 4 (out of a maximum of 5) with winds of up to 230 kilometers per hour.
“Extremely dangerous winds and life-threatening storm surge are expected along the northeast coast of Nicaragua and eastern Honduras,” the NHC said in its latest bulletin on Monday.
Iota could make landfall tonight on the Caribbean coast between Nicaragua and Honduras, following a similar path to that of Eta, which earlier this month left more than 200 dead and 2.5 million affected by floods and landslides.
Nicaraguan meteorological authorities expect the new hurricane to impact between Cabo Gracias a Dios, on the border with Honduras, and Prinzapolka, further south, near the city of Bilwi, a town of more than 40,000 inhabitants, mostly indigenous Miskitos and Afro-descendants.
The people of Bilwi tried to secure the roofs of their wooden houses with the same old and broken sheets of zinc that came loose with the passage of Eta, and kept their belongings in bags to protect them from the rains.
“I have taken measures since yesterday (Saturday), such as limbing the few trees left by Eta,” Yasser López, an employee of a Bilwi gas station, told AFP.
“The panic is latent” because they say that Iota “is more powerful than the first (Eta),” he added.
David Paterson, a resident of the barrio Olalaya, in a low-lying area of Bilwi prone to flooding, sought shelter in the home of relatives because the shelters still have those affected by Eta.
Thousands of Miskito Indians from the northern Caribbean communities of Nicaragua remained crammed into makeshift shelters in Bilwi educational centers, where they were evacuated by naval forces, while the rains intensified as the cyclone approached.
The Nicaraguan television service companies began to remove cables and the electricity company announced that it will suspend service from this Monday ahead of the arrival of Iota, confirmed an AFP team on location.
The NHC warned that heavy rains triggered by the cyclone could cause flash flooding and river flooding in Central America and northern Colombia.
“Floods and landslides in Honduras and Nicaragua could be exacerbated by the recent effects of Hurricane Eta” with a “potentially catastrophic impact,” said the US center.
In Honduras, police, and military evict in boats and helicopters, for the second day in a row, thousands of residents in the Sula Valley, near San Pedro Sula, the country’s second city, 180 kilometers north of Tegucigalpa, before the imminent floods.
The Permanent Contingency Commission (Copeco) warned in a statement that the proximity of Iota “increases the risk of floods and landslides, especially in the areas that were impacted by Eta”, which surprised the residents with the flooding of the Ulúa rivers. Chamelecón and Humuya and a network of minor tributaries.
Guatemala, which suffered fatal landslides with Eta, expects heavy rains from Tuesday, especially in the provinces of Petén, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz (north), Izabal (northeast), Huehuetenango, Quiché (west), Chiquimula , Zacapa, Jutiapa (east), Santa Rosa, Escuintla (south) and central Guatemala, where the capital is located, most still with damage caused by the previous cyclone.
Panama declared this Sunday a red alert in the western provinces of Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro and in the Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous region, in which Eta left 19 dead, 12 missing and millions of losses, according to Civil Protection.
Climate change causes an increase in temperature in the surface layers of the oceans, which generates more powerful hurricanes and storms with greater amounts of water, which constitute a more dangerous threat for coastal communities, according to studies of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC).
The record number of hurricanes this year forced the use of the Greek alphabet to name the new cyclones.
CNE warns of rains caused by hurricane Iota
In Costa Rica, the National Commission for Risk Prevention and Emergency Attention (CNE) warned about the rains since Sunday afternoon caused by Hurricane Iota, affecting mainly the Central and South Pacific areas, as well as in various parts of the Central Valley, mainly in Heredia.
Pérez reported that the municipal emergency committees are activated, monitoring the rainy activity caused by Hurricane Iota, while the effects generated by Hurricane Eta in the South Pacific are still being addressed.
“The operational personnel of the CNE are mobilized to the most affected areas, mainly the south and the central Pacific, to follow up on the care work,” he said.
A total of 99 people are still in eight shelters, receiving care for the impact of Eta in Costa Rica.