The US National Hurricane Center has warned that Hurricane Iota is expected to intensify to a “very dangerous” Category 4 level when it reaches land in Central America on Monday, two weeks after a strong storm devastated most of the region and left more than 200 people dead or missing.
On Sunday, Iota’s strength rose to Category 5, the highest on the wind force scale, as it blew west over the Caribbean towards the borders of Nicaragua and Honduras.
The maximum speed of the accompanying winds reached about 155 km per hour.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said, “It is expected to accelerate in the next 24 hours,” and predicted that “Iota Hurricane Category 4 will be extremely dangerous as it approaches Central America.”
The hurricane is moving slowly over the southwestern Caribbean, and the hurricane is expected to pass near or over the tiny Colombian island of Providencia late Sunday and hit northeast Nicaragua and eastern Honduras late Monday.
The Hurricane Center, in a report, predicted the occurrence of “potentially catastrophic winds, a life-threatening storm, and heavy rain” in Central America, with Iota becoming the thirteenth hurricane this year.
Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua announced Friday the implementation of evacuations of residents, while the region continues to suffer from the devastation caused by Hurricane ETA.
Below, the largest city on the Nicaraguan coast on the Caribbean Sea, residents are desperate to secure rundown wooden roofs with zinc sheets torn apart by Hurricane ETA.
Also, many residents used plastic bags to wrap their belongings to protect them from the coming rain.
“We are anxious and nervous. Psychologically we are not doing a good job because losing things and starting over is not easy,” Sylvania Zamora told AFP.
“Some of us have small homes and we risk losing everything,” she added.
“Some of us would rather stay and die in our homes,” Zamora said. “No successive hurricanes have ever happened in such a short time, but what can we do in the face of God’s will and the power of nature,” she added.
The torrential rains associated with Hurricane Ita caused rivers to overflow, causing landslides as far north as Chiapas in Mexico.
In Nicaragua, the head of the Disaster Management Agency, Guillermo Gonzales, said the authorities were preparing to deal with “floods, rains, high tides, winds, and landslides”. He explained that “about 80 thousand families will be threatened.”
On Friday, authorities sent boats to evacuate residents in Cabo Gracias Adios, as the Coco River flows into the Caribbean Sea.
The US National Hurricane Center has warned that Iota will bring 40 cm of rain to Honduras, northern Nicaragua, eastern Guatemala, and southern Belize.
On Friday, the authorities in Honduras ordered the police and the army to evacuate the San Pedro Sula region, the second-largest city and the industrial capital in the country, which is located about 177 km north of the capital Tegucigalpa.
ETA has hit the area hard, and around 40,000 people remain in shelter centers across the country.
The government also ordered the removal of water from the main hydroelectric dam in Honduras, to avoid flooding after the rains associated with Hurricane Iota.
In turn, the Guatemalan Disaster Management Agency called on residents in the north and northeast to leave their areas.
ETA hit the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua as a Category 4 storm, one of the strongest storms on record in November.
Scientists say rising seas caused by climate change are making hurricanes stronger after they make landfall.
This year’s hurricane season saw a record 30 tropical storms hit the Caribbean, Central America, and the southeastern United States.