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Iota loses strength after making landfall in Nicaragua

Iota was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane when it made landfall Monday afternoon in the northern Caribbean of Nicaragua, although it still left heavy rains and winds of up to 250 km / h that uprooted trees and roofs of houses on its way inland. of Central America, an area devastated two weeks ago by cyclone Eta.

Stronger than its predecessor, Iota made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane with maximum winds of 260 km / hr, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a report, but upon landfall it began to lose strength.

The center said the cyclone, now category 4, is accompanied by “catastrophic winds” and heavy rains that can cause “flash floods” as well as landslides in much of Central America.

Iota follows the same path as Hurricane Eta, which left more than 200 dead and missing in Central America. Some 2.5 million people were affected by the Eta crossing, according to official estimates.

Strong winds and downpours flooded the slums of Bilwi, which was without power hours before the Iota onslaught, . journalists at the scene noted.

Thousands of residents were transferred to shelters, while others remained in their fragile wooden houses.

“The wind is too strong, it took everything, the roof and the wooden windows of my house, which is made of concrete. I had to go to another neighboring house,” Jessi Urbina, a neighbor of the El Muelle neighborhood, told .. Bilwi.

Inhabitants of the area assured that the wind tore off the roofs of the houses “as if they were made of cardboard.”

– Thousands evacuated –

Thousands of people were taken to shelters in Central America, while the leaders of the region agreed to form a common front to request international resources to help them deal with the damage caused by the two hurricanes.

Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala have been carrying out evacuations since last week, and the hurricane also affects Panama and the Colombian island of Providencia, which was cut off from communication.

At least one person died in Providencia where it destroyed about 98% of its infrastructure, Colombian President Iván Duque reported on Twitter.

The hurricane season in the Atlantic has broken records. Iota is the 13th of 30 named storms recorded this year to reach hurricane status, forcing the use of the Greek alphabet.

– Honduras expects rain –

The rains caused by Iota also hit the Honduran Caribbean, and downpours are expected on Tuesday in Tegucigalpa, where poor neighborhoods in the hills of the capital are at risk.

The Honduran Air Force anticipated heavy rains in the capital and in northern San Pedro Sula, the country’s industrial capital heavily hit by Eta.

Both Honduras and Nicaragua suffered the worst impacts of the last hurricanes in isolated and poor areas.

Northeast Nicaragua, a large and sparsely populated region, with inhabitants of the Miskito, Sumos, Garífuna ethnic groups, as well as Creole and Mestizos, suffered the impact of Iota without having finished assimilating the effects of Hurricane Eta.

In Honduras, Iota caused gusts of winds and heavy rains in the eastern departments of Gracias a Dios – a Miskito population – Colón, northern Olancho and part of Atlántida, according to the state Permanent Contingency Commission (Copeco).

According to local media, more than 175,000 people had been evacuated since Saturday, especially in areas flooded during the Eta scourge in the Sula Valley, near San Pedro Sula.

Guatemala maintains surveillance in the provinces of Alta Verapaz, Izabal, Quiché, Huehuetenango, Petén, Zacapa and Chiquimula, in the north, west and east regions, hard hit by Eta and still with dozens of communities isolated by landslides and floods, according to Yelson Samayoa, director of the Institute of Meteorology.

El Salvador and Panama also declared a red alert in anticipation of the effects of Iota.

Faced with the double onslaught of hurricanes, the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica cried out on Monday for help from the international community to rebuild their countries, during a virtual meeting.

The president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), Dante Mossi, present at the meeting, proposed to refocus the entity’s $ 2.5 billion “to restore infrastructure, dams and construction of social housing.”

bur-jr / mas / lda / rsr / dga / af