Hurricane Iota made landfall on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, threatening to cause catastrophic damage to the same part of Central America already hit by equally strong Hurricane Eta less than two weeks ago.
Iota had escalated into a dangerous Category 5 storm early Monday, but the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said it weakened slightly to Category 4, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (250 km / h). It made landfall about 45 km south of the Nicaraguan town of Puerto Cabezas, also known as Bilwi.
The storm made landfall just 25 km south of where Hurricane Eta made landfall on November 3, also as a Category 4 storm. Torrential rains from Eta had saturated the region’s soil. , leaving it prone to further landslides and flooding, and residents also worried about a storm surge with Iota.
The outer edge of Iota had already hit the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras with torrential rains and high winds.
In Bilwi, business owner Adán Artola Schultz braced for the entrance to his home as strong gusts of wind and rain swept water into the street. The wind tore the metal roof structure of a large two-story house and swept it away like paper.
“It’s like bullets,” he said of the sound of metal structures slamming and warping in the wind. “It’s a double destruction,” he said, referring to the damage caused by Eta. “It is happening with fury,” said Artola Schultz.
Cairo Jarquin, Nicaragua emergency response project manager for Catholic Relief Services, visited Bilwi and small coastal communities on Friday. In Wawa Bar, Jarquin said he found “total destruction” of Eta. People had worked hard to put the roofs back on their families’ heads, but now Iota was threatening to take what was left.
“What little was left standing could be shaved,” Jarquin said. There were other communities further inland that he couldn’t even reach due to the state of the roads. He said he heard that Bar Wawa was evacuated again on Saturday.
Evacuations were carried out from low-lying areas of Nicaragua and Honduras near their shared border throughout the weekend.
Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is also the first lady, said the government has done everything necessary to protect lives, including the evacuation of thousands of people.
Iota is the 30th named storm of this year’s dangerously busy Atlantic hurricane season. It is also the ninth storm to intensify rapidly this season. Such activity has drawn attention to climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
Iota was expected to drop 10 to 20 inches (250-500 mm) of rain in northern Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and southern Belize, with up to 30 inches (750 mm) in isolated locations. Costa Rica and Panama could also experience heavy rains and possible flooding.