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 offering assistance, as they continue their response efforts after Hurricane Eta.
In Nicaragua, shelter populations have reduced to 10,400, down from 160,000 prior to Iota. An estimated 120,000 people have been reached with health services. There are reports of six deaths, 4,000 homes lost, local markets and crops destroyed, and extensive damage to infrastructure and shelters. More than 53,000 people are reported to have no access to drinking water.
In Honduras, the northern Sula Valley witnessed the most significant flooding – the San Pedro Sula airport experienced significant flooding and will be shut down until December 15. Reports indicate that 969 shelters are housing 88,700 people. The country has reported that more than 4 million people were affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota and 2.5 million people still have limited or no access to health services due to storm damage. 352 health facilities have reported damages Currently, a major concern is COVID-19 spread as the nation has reported a rise in confirmed cases since the storms hit.
In Guatemala, 31,600 people remain in official shelters while an additional 202,800 are reported to be in unofficial shelters. 121 health facilities have reported damage. The nation has also reported a rise in COVID-19 cases.
In Colombia, San Andres reports around 2,800 people in shelters. Providencia reports 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 are expecting to see 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 reports that all clinics are continuing to operate normally. National authorities have 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. The shelters are now being dismantled and the red alert was discontinued.
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 are in shelters throughout the affected area. Shelters report that they are 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 are in close communication with partners throughout Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala in responding to the combined destruction from Eta and Iota. The ER and LAC Teams are providing a flash grant to longtime-partner, the American Nicaraguan Foundation, to support shelter activities in the northeastern part of Nicaragua – specifically to cover targeted procurements of hygiene supplies, PPE and other items. In Honduras, we are supporting our partner, Hope for a Healthier Humanity Foundation (HHHF), to procure relief items such as hygiene products and COVID prevention supplies including hand sanitizer to distribute to affected populations. Additionally, Americares grant support to HHHF includes provision of medicines and supplies to support the needs of 9 health centers across 5 departments. In addition, Americares is providing two additional grants to ongoing partners in Honduras and Nicaragua,
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 is supporting an ongoing partner in Florida with an emergency shipment containing hygiene supplies, medicines and wound care items.