Hurricane Iota Strikes Central America Just Weeks Following Hurricane Eta

Hurricane Iota struck Nicaragua, making landfall on Monday, November 16th and is now considered the strongest storm in the nation’s history. Winds reached up to approximately 250 km/h. Surrounding countries including Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Panama, have also been affected. More than 400,000 Nicaraguan people were impacted by the hurricane. At least forty people are dead as a result of the storm and ensuing conditions across Central America and Colombia. The majority of the deaths occurred in Nicaragua and Honduras, although the toll is still expected to rise.

Hurricane Iota struck Central America, just two weeks after Hurricane Eta hit the same region. Between ten to thirty inches of rainfall is expected throughout Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. According to an alert released by the National Hurricane Center, the NHC, “This rainfall will lead to significant life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain.” The storm is impacting areas already overly saturated by Hurricane Eta. Regions of Honduras actually remained underwater following Eta, experienced further rainfall. The mayor of Wampusirpi, a municipality in northeastern Honduras surrounded by rivers and streams, claimed, “We’re flooded everywhere, the rain lasted almost all night and now it stops for an hour then comes back for two to three hours.”

Central American residents have been displaced as a result of both of the storms. Over 100,000 Nicaraguans and Hondurans have evacuated, leaving their homes. About 600 shelters were established in Honduras. However, over 13,000 citizens in need sought aid and refuge. Additionally, 62,000 people in Nicaragua were moved into 683 government shelters. The President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, appealed to the international community for further help. During the press conference, President Hernandez stated, “We are in a situation of great calamity and we need the world to help us rebuild our country.” However, news coverage has been relatively sparse. Further, the perpetuation of American isolation is likely, and is unlikely to offer the considerable support necessary to aid Central America.

Hurricane Iota is the second major storm to strike the region in only two weeks, compounding the damage. Further, the storm is the 13th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The season has been unique. Over 30 named storms were recorded this year. Hurricanes Eta and Iota are additionally record-breaking, marking the first time two major hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic basin in November. Although Iota was downgraded to a category four storm by the time it made landfall, it was initially a category five, and only the second November hurricane to reach that category. The last was in 1932. Iota is the strongest Atlantic hurricane this year. However, damaging trends are likely to continue, as scientists claim climate change is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.

President-elect Joe Biden claimed, following the evacuation of 60,000 Nicaraguan peoples, that the surge in the number of powerful storms means that fighting climate change remains vital. Migration is subsequently expected to increase, due to a loss of infrastructure and homes. However, it is the loss of life which is undoubtedly the most tragic result of the storms.