Less than two weeks after Hurricane Eta, which killed more than 200 people in Central America, a second hurricane, Iota, strengthened Sunday over the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea as it slowly approached the coast of the Nicaragua and Honduras.
Iota “is expected to quickly become a major hurricane,” with “destructive winds and heavy rains” posing “a deadly threat” to Central America, the Miami-based National Hurricane Monitoring Center (NHC) said on Sunday ( United States).
Moving at 15 km / h westward with sustained winds of up to 150 km / h, the hurricane was at 10:00 a.m. (3:00 p.m. GMT) Sunday about 540 kilometers east of Cape Gracias a Dios, at the border of Nicaragua and Honduras.
It was classified as a hurricane early Sunday morning because “a reconnaissance plane found that Iota had strengthened, becoming the thirteenth hurricane of the 2020 hurricane season in the North Atlantic,” NHC announced on Twitter.
“The floods and mudslides in Honduras and Nicaragua could be worsened by the recent effects of Hurricane Eta in these regions, with significant consequences,” he said.
Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua have started to evacuate populations from the most exposed areas, especially on the Caribbean coast, on the border of Honduras and Nicaragua, which will receive the first shock, probably as early as Monday. Iota may have turned into a major hurricane, Category 4 on a scale of five, the NHC has warned.
As the surface of the oceans warms, hurricanes become more powerful, according to scientists, who predict an increase in the proportion of category 4 and 5 cyclones.
– Forced evacuations –
In Nicaragua, the authorities are preparing for “floods, rains, high tides, high winds and landslides,” said director of the Sinapred disaster prevention service, Guillermo Gonzalez. “Some 80,000 families will be threatened,” he said, while population evacuations are underway on the border with Honduras.
On Friday, the authorities had sent boats to evacuate the populations of the territory of Cape Gracias a Dios, on the Caribbean Sea. Many, however, refuse to abandon their homes, fearing they will be infected with the coronavirus in shelters.
In Bilwi, the main port city on the north coast of Nicaragua, the 40,000 inhabitants, mostly indigenous Miskitos, were busy reinforcing their frail wooden houses, many of whose tin roofs had already been torn off at the beginning of the month by the gusts of hurricane Eta.
“Never before have we seen hurricanes follow one another in such a short time,” said Silvania Zamora, who gathered Sunday, like most residents of Bilwi, her belongings in plastic bags to try to put them away. the shelter. “We risk losing everything.”
The Wawa River, which separates the region from the rest of the country, is still in flood after the passage of Eta and can only be crossed by boat. Long lines of trucks formed on its banks on Sunday, loaded with aid material that was impossible to transport.
In Honduras, police and military continued on Sunday, for the second day in a row, to carry out forced evacuations of thousands of inhabitants in the region of San Pedro Sula, the second city and industrial capital of the country, 180 km north of the capital. , a region already hard hit by Eta.
Iota’s approach “increases the risk of floods and landslides, especially in areas that have already been affected by Eta,” warned the Honduran civil protection services (Copeco).
In Guatemala, where Eta has left more than 150 dead and missing, the disaster prevention organization Conred called on residents of the most threatened areas in the north and northeast of the country to “voluntarily” evacuate them.
Finally, El Salvador has put itself on yellow alert (intermediate) and the authorities called on the population to prepare for the arrival of the cyclone.