A Double Disaster: An estimated 2.4 million people in Guatemala, 4.6 million in Honduras (nearly half of the country’s population), and 1.8 million in Nicaragua were affected by storms Eta and Iota. In addition to severe infrastructure damages to homes and health centers, and the increased transmission of COVID-19, a major concern in the affected countries is food insecurity and damages to agricultural production systems.
Our Response to the double hurricane disaster in the region: Americares is working closely with nine local partners in six countries to provide these partners with financial and product support to ensure the safety of those impacted. Our key focus has been, and will continue to be, to provide access to hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment since they are so critical to limiting the spread of COVID-19 in post-disaster shelter and community settings.
Hurricane Iota reached Category 5 strength on November 16 when it hit the small Colombian Island of Providencia and then made landfall near the town of Haulover, Nicaragua, as a Category 4, with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph. The storm affected Northern Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia and El Salvador. Iota rapidly weakened as it moved through northeastern Nicaragua and into Honduras – still bringing torrential rain, flash flooding, and mudslides. Iota dissipated over El Salvador on November 18. The impact of the storm has been exacerbated by the extensive flooding and infrastructure damage caused by Eta in the same region only 2 weeks prior. Our Emergency Team is working with our partners in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador and providing assistance, as they continue their response efforts after Hurricane Eta. The destruction from both storms has been catastrophic to many communities and the damage to an agrarian economy will have longer term effects.
In Nicaragua, 21 persons have died since the outset of the disaster. In addition, 4,000 homes were lost, local markets and crops destroyed, and extensive damage to infrastructure and shelters. More than 50,000 people were reported to have no access to drinking water.
In Honduras, the northern Sula Valley witnessed the most significant flooding – with the San Pedro Sula airport shutting down until December 15. More than 99 have died. There were 15 landslides and 329 floods since the outset of the disaster. 120 health facilities were reported inoperative, 27 health facilities had collapsed, and 12 reported damage to cold chain equipment. A major concern is COVID-19 spread as the nation has reported a rise in confirmed cases since the storms hit.
In Guatemala, 60 deaths had been reported and 206 health facilities have reported damage. The nation has also reported a rise in COVID-19 cases.
In Colombia, San Andres initially reported around 2,800 people in shelters. Providencia reported 100% of homes damaged (80% totally damaged and 20% partially damaged) and 1 health facility completely damaged and non-operative. The Americares Colombia Team, particularly in the departments of Atlántico and Bolivar were preparing for an increase in the number of patients because of Hurricane Iota – particularly as many Venezuelan migrants live in crowded conditions that have been impacted by heavy rainfall and minor flooding. The Colombia team reported that all clinics continued to operate normally. National authorities mobilized 86 tons of humanitarian assistance, including: hygiene kits, tents, biosecurity kits, and bottled water. An emergency field hospital has been installed including outpatient services, emergency rooms with isolation capacity, and clinical lab. A water treatment plant, seven water pumps, twelve electric generators and a desalination plant are being installed.
In El Salvador, two deaths have been linked to Hurricane Iota and the Civil Protection Committee did preventative evacuations in at risk areas. Some 1,000 persons were evacuated but fortunately no major damages occurred during Iota’s path.
Hurricane Eta made landfall in Nicaragua as a devastating Category 4 storm with 145 mph winds, bringing life threatening storm surge, wind and rain to parts of Central America. It struck one of the most impoverished areas of Nicaragua’s coast, forcing vulnerable communities with limited resources to confront the impact of another extreme weather event. Eta weakened to a tropical storm with 70 mph winds, but continued to bring heavy rainfall as it moved from northern Nicaragua into Honduras and Guatemala. Rainfall totals for much of Nicaragua and Honduras landed between 15 and 25 inches, with isolated pockets receiving up to 35 inches. Eastern Guatemala received between 10 and 20 inches, with isolated pockets receiving up to 25 inches. As the 28th named storm in the Atlantic this season, it ties the record for the number of named storms in a single season set back in 2005.
Around 20,000 people were evacuated throughout northeastern Nicaragua and more than 3,000 were in shelters throughout the affected area. Shelters reported that they were massively under-resourced – many lacking food, water, hygiene supplies, bedding, electricity and unable to implement social distancing measures. Flooding and landslides, particularly in Nicaragua, complicated assessment and relief efforts. Heavy rainfall closed airports in northern Honduras, however the airport in Tegucigalpa continued to operate and roads remained operable throughout the country. At least 150 deaths have been reported in Guatemala alone due to a devastating mudslide.
The Emergency Response Team is working closely with the Latin America and Caribbean and Americares El Salvador Teams, who were in close communication with partners throughout Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala in responding to the combined destruction from Eta and Iota.
In response to Hurricane Eta, Americares has provided five grants to four partners in Nicaragua (American Nicaraguan Foundation), Guatemala (Order of Malta) and Honduras (Order of Malta and Hope for a Healthier Humanity Foundation). The majority of the funds have been used to locally procure hygiene products and COVID-19 prevention supplies to distribute to affected populations in shelters. Two shipments containing PPE, medicines, and supplies are being sent to ChildFund Honduras and Order of Malta Honduras for use in shelters.
In response to Iota, Americares has provided two grants to ongoing partners in Honduras (Order of Malta) and Nicaragua (American Nicaraguan Foundation). The grant to Order of Malta Honduras is being used to purchase medicines and IPC supplies for use in Health Centers in San Pedro Sula, a northern city that was heavily impacted by flooding. The grant to American Nicaraguan Foundation will provide 300 families in Nuevo Segovia with aid packages containing hygiene supplies and personal items. One shipment of medicine and supplies is being sent to Colombia (Order of Malta) and 3 shipments of water purifier sachets are being sent to two partners in El Salvador (Order of Malta and Fusal) and Guatemala (Order of Malta).
After the storm turned north, leaving a trail of destruction, it moved back into the Atlantic; it regained strength as it made first landfall in Florida, bringing torrential rains and flooding. Eta then moved out over water again with a second landfall in the Tampa Bay area leaving flooding and thousands without power. In response, Americares supported an ongoing partner in Florida with an emergency shipment containing hygiene supplies, medicines and wound care items.