“This year is unlike any other,” said Felipe Del Cid, director of emergency operations for the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC). “The hurricane season has been intense. We’ve broken all records, and now we’re seeing this shifting Caribbean weather that could turn into a tropical storm… and make the situation much worse than it already is.
In the hardest-hit countries like Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, 90 people have died and 113 are still missing, of whom 210,000 have been evacuated from their homes. Rescue teams were frantically trying to locate missing people on Thursday before forecast rains hit areas already soaked in water.
“There is a system coming almost exactly from the same place as Eta. It’s the last thing the people of this region need, ”said Steve McAndrew, deputy director of the International Federation for the Americas. “There are still people trapped on the rooftops; our search and rescue teams are always looking for people. Massive floods affect water and sanitation. We have reports of people using salt water. “
Communities living along the Caribbean coast, including the Miskito and Garifuna people, were badly affected, trapped between winds and floods lashing inland as landslides rushed down. “Some communities may never recover,” McAndrew said.
The region faces a triple threat of extreme weather conditions, massive migration caused by economic instability and violence, and Covid-19.
Volunteers handed out masks and hand sanitizer, but with hundreds of thousands crowded into shelters, and water supplies and sanitation severely affected, there are fears the coronavirus could spread.
“We have a Covid situation, we have dengue, we have other vectors that we are monitoring. We are now awaiting the development of the next storm, ”said Santiago Luengo, IFRC Honduras.
With the destruction of livelihoods and entire neighborhoods washed away by the flooding, the number of people seeking better lives elsewhere is likely to increase, he said.
The consequences of Eta have been compared to those of Hurricane Mitch of 1998, the most destructive storm to ever hit Central America, which led to a wave of migration to the United States.
“We are seeing more and more natural disasters and it is the most vulnerable people who are most affected,” said McAndrew. “People with the financial means can put themselves out of danger when hurricanes strike or will have a residence built to resist them better. This is another reason why people would try a new life elsewhere.
“The number of people suffering is overwhelming.”