Moises Castillo / A.P.
Their response to Hurricane Eta has already extended relief organizations preparing for a second devastating storm in Central America in several weeks.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Typhoon Iota will cause landslides in Nicaragua on Monday night, accompanied by catastrophic winds and rain. By 1 p.m., Iota will be blowing at a maximum speed of 160 mph.
Of the NHC Description Type 5 storm damage “will destroy large numbers of structured houses, … fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages last from weeks to months. Most areas become uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
Conor Walsh, who manages Catholic relief services in Honduras, said the capital, Tegucigalpa, was the most vulnerable – as in other parts of the country.
National Hurricane Center
“The storm is huge, it’s going right across the country, and we expect widespread damage and widespread suffering,” he says.
Timothy Hansel, manager of Catholic Relief Services in Nicaragua, said the charity was working to provide locals with cleaning materials and toilet paper, to repair houses damaged by Hurricane Eta, and to help farmers recover from crop damage.
Hurricane Eta hit two parts of Nicaragua, Hansel says.
“One is the Caribbean [coastal] Indigenous communities, where we have strong winds and severe flooding and destruction of homes, “says Hansel.” The other part is the northern and central part of the country, where there are a lot of agricultural areas, they report … 50% loss of beans in the current season [and] Lots of damage to rice and corn and vegetables. “
The impact of the storm on farms extends across the region.
“Both of these storms hit at the worst possible time because … farmers were getting ready to harvest and they lost plenty of beans and other basic grains to the storm,” says Walsh in Nicaragua. “Therefore, we are going to think about their immediate food security and then the long-term recovery of the agricultural sector.”
In Guatemala, the Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid organization, is also preparing to respond to the storm.
In Alta Verapas, Guatemala, more than 50% of the population lives in extreme poverty, says Mercy Corps representative Miriam Aguilar.
Aguilar says that if Iota maintains its planned trajectory, it will be catastrophic. The region’s land is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Eta, and 17,500 people are still living in shelters in Guatemala, says Aguilar.
“Access to affected communities is still a challenge. We have cut down trees, flooded roads, washed bridges,” he says. “With the arrival of Iota, we expect additional flash flooding, overflowing rivers and landslides, which could further block our access.”
This week, Mercy Corps plans to install water storage tanks in evacuation camps in the Alta Verapaz to ensure clean water is available to evacuees, Aguilar says. But she expects a flash flood that could cut off access to her company’s dormitories.
The risk of COVID-19 and waterborne diseases will increase, and only as evictees seek shelter, Aguilar says.
“We are really concerned about the spread of COVID-19,” he says. “In addition to formal accommodation, we are already providing [personal protective equipment] And other emergency supplies … There are also many informal shelters … set up by communities. They improve structures, they have no basic resources. “
Hansel in Nicaragua hopes the international community can understand the severity of Hurricanes Zeta and Iota.
“A lot of people [outside Central America] Etta did not even realize that the hurricane had come and caused the disaster [in] . Help people get their lives back on track, ”he says.