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Eta Devastates Central America; Florida Officials Monitoring Storm’s Path

Published in 6 November, 2020

At a Glance

  • Eta came ashore Tuesday as a Category 4 hurricane.

  • Dozens of people have been killed in landslides.

  • Hundreds were rescued from flooding.

Homes have been swept away by water and mud, communities inundated with flooding and dozens of people killed after what is now Tropical Depression Eta dumped more than 22 inches of rain on parts of Central America.

The number of dead from the storm continued to rise Thursday, mostly from devastating landslides that sent waves of mud rushing down hillsides. The overall toll of Eta’s wrath likely won’t be known for days as emergency crews search through debris and reports filter in from isolated communities.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Thursday that at least 37 people had been killed in his country. He later said at least 50 were dead, the Associated Press reported. Guatemala’s emergency agency said 50 people were missing.

Thirteen deaths have been reported in Honduras and two in Nicaragua. Most of the deaths involved landslides.

There were also reports of deaths in Costa Rica and Panama.

The Honduras National Police posted video Friday morning of a woman being rescued as she clung to a tree amid rushing floodwaters.

One police officer reportedly saved 14 people in the Sula Valley, in the northwest part of the country.

About 500 people were rescued from rooftops where they had climbed to escape the rising waters Thursday.

“We will not leave the area until we rescue the last person,” Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez told reporters, according to Reuters.

Rescue efforts continued overnight by police, soldiers and firefighters.

Marta Julia Portillo, 62, fled her home in the San Pedro Sula neighborhood Thursday. Her son, who stayed behind, later told her the water was up to the third floor, according to the AP.

“We don’t know where to go because we don’t have any place to shelter,” Portillo said.

Aid agencies said the situation is dire.

“I would say the national capacity has been overwhelmed by the size of the impact we are seeing,” said Maite Matheu, Honduras director for the international humanitarian organization CARE.

About 60 fishermen stranded at sea off the coast of Honduras as the storm neared landfall Tuesday were rescued. They had taken shelter on small islands off the coast.

Across Honduras, floodwaters have destroyed more than 450 homes, according to Marvin Aparicio, a spokesman for the country’s emergency management agency, COPECO. More than three dozen communities were cut off when roads and bridges were washed out.

Eta made landfall Tuesday in Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane. While it’s still too early to know exactly where Eta will go next, the latest forecast calls for the storm to reemerge over the Caribbean Sea and move toward Florida over the weekend and into early next week.

Officials in Miami-Dade, Monroe and other Florida counties were monitoring the storm and reminding residents to prepared and have emergency kits ready if needed.

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