Central America nonetheless on excessive alert as Hurricane Eta kills dozens | Honduras
Rainy remnants of Hurricane Eta flooded homes from Panama to Guatemala as the death toll in Central America rose to at least 57 people and aid groups warned of floods and mudslides caused a slow humanitarian disaster.
The storm that hit Nicaragua on Tuesday as a mighty Category 4 hurricane had turned into more of a giant tropical rainstorm on Thursday, but it was advancing so slowly, dropping so much rain, that much of Central America remained on high alert.
Forecasters said the now tropical depression is expected to regain strength early next week and move to Cuba and possibly the Gulf of Mexico.
On Thursday afternoon, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said a water-soaked mountainside in the central part of the country had slipped down on the town of San Cristobal Verapaz, burying houses and leaving at least 25 dead.
A submerged Protestant church can be seen along a flooded street during the passage of Storm Eta in Pimienta, Honduras [Jorge Cabrera/Reuters]Two more slides in Huehuetenango killed at least 12 others, he said. The previous Thursday, five other people were killed on smaller slides in Guatemala.
Guatemala’s death toll was 13 people, who died in Honduras and two in Nicaragua. The Panamanian authorities reported eight missing persons.
Eta had winds of 55 km / h and was moving at 13 km / h from north to northwest on Thursday.
In Guatemala, local firefighters said that two children died when their home collapsed under heavy rain in the Quiche Central Department. A third person also died in quiche, but details were not immediately available. Giammattei confirmed a fourth death in a landslide in Chinautla on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday, Giammattei said on local radio that 60 percent of the eastern city of Puerto Barrios had been flooded and another 48 hours of rain were expected.
People walk through a flooded street during Storm Eta in La Lima, Honduras [Jorge Cabrera/Reuters]In Honduras, national police said six more bodies had been found, bringing the number of victims in that country to 13.
The bodies of two adults and two children were found after excavations in a landslide on Wednesday in Gualala parish, and two boys, ages eight and eleven, died in another landslide in El Nispero parish.
Previously, residents found the body of a girl who was buried in a landslide in mountains outside the north coast town of Tela on Wednesday. In the same area, a landslide has buried a house with a mother and two children, according to Oscar Triminio, spokesman for the Honduras fire department.
He said a two-year-old girl was also killed in the Santa Barbara Department when she was swept away by the floods.
More heavy rain
It has been predicted that it will rain heavily across Honduras until at least Thursday when Eta moves towards the northern town of San Pedro Sula.
Dozens of residents in a San Pedro Sula neighborhood had to leave their homes in the early hours of Thursday when water from the Chamelecon River reached their front door.
Honduran officials previously reported that a 12-year-old girl was killed in a landslide and a 15-year-old boy drowned while trying to cross a rain-swollen river.
Line workers repair a power line that was damaged by a tree that fell in high winds caused by Tropical Storm Eta in San Salvador, El Salvador [Jose Cabezas/Reuters]Marvin Aparicio of Honduras’ emergency management agency said Wednesday that about 457 homes were damaged, mostly from floods. There were 41 parishes cut off from blurred roads.
Those rescued included Karen Patricia Serrano, her husband, and five children. Their house was flooded with water from the Lancetilla River and they had been in a Tela shelter since Monday.
“We have lost everything,” said the 32-year-old woman. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. I even lost my little animals, ”she said, referring to chickens, cats and dogs.
In the Chiriqui province in Panama, bordering Costa Rica, at least eight people were reported missing after floods and landslides.
People push a car through a flooded street during Storm Eta in La Lima, Honduras [Jorge Cabrera/Reuters]”The situation is worrying, a lot of help is needed,” said Javier Pitti, mayor of Tierras Altas in Chiriqui. Landslides had blocked many roads, including the main road that connected the province with the rest of Panama.
The homes of more than 200 residents of the Ngabe Bugle autonomous indigenous area were flooded.
On the way to Cuba, USA
The US National Hurricane Center forecast that parts of Nicaragua and Honduras could receive 380 to 635 millimeters of rain, with more rain possible in some remote areas.
When the remnants of the storm return to the Caribbean, it will regain strength and turn back into a tropical storm, projections show.
Then Eta is predicted to slowly move towards Cuba and Florida, or at least close enough to Florida for forecasters to warn of seven inches of rain for south Florida over the next five to seven days.
We lost everything. I don’t know what we’re gonna do I even lost my little animals
Eta could even move to the Gulf of Mexico next week.
“Whatever comes out [of Central America] will linger for a while, ”said hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University.
“I’m not convinced we’re done with Eta.”