MANAGUA (AP) – At least 16 people have died in Nicaragua in the last hours, seven of them buried by a landslide in a northern mountainous area affected by severe rains and landslides caused by the devastating passage of Hurricane Iota, reported Wednesday the vice president and first lady, Rosario Murillo.
In statements to official media, Murillo confirmed that an avalanche of stones and mud was registered in a community in the Macizo Peñas Blancas, rural area of the Matagalpa department, in the north, where Army and police brigades have recovered seven bodies and continue to work. .
According to Murillo, among the bodies found so far in the place is a 34-year-old woman with her three minor children, whose home was buried by the avalanche. He added that rescuers took four peasants alive, and said these deaths were added to those of at least eight other people on Tuesday in areas of the north and south of the country, also affected by overflowing rivers and floods.
Although the government numbers seven people killed by the landslide in Peñas Blancas, where 15 missing people have also been reported, coffee producer Henry Hueck, owner of the San Martín farm, near the site of the collapse, assured that the landslide claimed 16 lives .
Farmer Miguel Rodríguez, a worker on the San Martín farm, told The Associated Press that he saw at least “seven bodies scattered” in the area.
“The landslide came with all the land and became like a river that went down. The little houses that were brought to him all. There are five homes, five families, ”he said, still shocked.
According to the farmer, there are still several people alive inside another house on the other side of the hill, which was isolated by the collapse and to which the rescue brigades are trying to reach.
For its part, the Army reported that it has mobilized more than 100 rescuers there and that access is very difficult, as the rains caused by Iota and Hurricane Eta undermined the soils and knocked down tree trunks that have blocked the roads.
The Peñas Blancas Massif is a 1,700 meter high mountain that is part of the Cordillera Isabelia, one of the largest rock formations in the northern region of Nicaragua.
Iota struck northern Nicaragua from the Caribbean as a Category 4 hurricane, causing the destruction of homes, landslides and river overflows. The government had reported the death of six people on Tuesday, including two children.
Meanwhile, the United States government announced that it allocated 17 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to help those affected in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua by Iota and Eta – which punished the region two weeks ago – according to an official statement issued in Washington .
He also reported that he has sent experts from the Disaster Response Assistance Team of the Agency for International Development (USAID) to those countries, who will help identify the damage and needs in coordination with local authorities and international agencies.
Iota hit the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean and flooded parts of neighboring Honduras that were still affected by the floods caused by Eta.
After losing intensity, Iota was moving inland through northern Nicaragua and southern Honduras on Tuesday night as a tropical storm, but meteorologists warned that its heavy rains continue to pose a risk of floods and landslides. It had maximum sustained winds of 65 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour) and was moving west at 19 km / h (12 mph).
The storm passed about 25 kilometers (40 miles) south-southwest of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, where river flow increased and the rains are expected to intensify. In the city in the mountains, residents of low-lying areas, prone to flooding, were being evacuated as a preventive measure, as were those from neighborhoods vulnerable to landslides.
“Here what affected the most were the floods. The Barra Patuca sector has been flooded for 15 days, ”said Teonela Paisano Wood, the mayor of the Honduran town of Brus Laguna. “We are in danger if it continues to rain.”
Mirna Wood, vice president of the Miskito community in the Gracias a Dios region of Honduras’ eastern tip, was in Tegucigalpa collecting donations for her community ravaged by Eta when Iota arrived.
Some 40,000 people from that area had to leave their homes in the lowlands and near rivers and the sea and took refuge in shelters, but others remained stranded near the border with Nicaragua. Some were rescued by Nicaraguan authorities, he added.
In Guatemala, the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) said that there are two people dead and two missing after a landslide that occurred last Thursday in the municipality of Purulhá, in Baja Verapaz.
According to the first versions, the landslide fell on two houses, causing the deaths and damaging the buildings.
There are already 131,000 affected and 6,400 people evacuated in Guatemala due to the effects of Iota, added Conred.
In Nicaragua the full extent of the damage was unclear because much of the affected region had no electricity, no telephone or internet service, and strong winds hampered radio transmissions. Iota made landfall just 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of where Eta, also a Category 4, landed on 3 November.
Preliminary reports from the coast spoke of trees and power poles downed and the roofs of homes and businesses uprooted, explained Guillermo González, director of the state Disaster Attention System.
For its part, Panama said that one person died and another was missing in the autonomous indigenous community of Ngabe Bugle, in the west of the country.
Eta killed more than 130 people and caused landslides and flash floods in parts of Central America and Mexico. It left tens of thousands homeless in Honduras, which reported 74 dead and nearly 57,000 people in shelters.
Before making landfall in Nicaragua, Iota swept the small Colombian island of Providencia, more than 250 kilometers (155 miles) off the Nicaraguan coast. According to the president of Colombia, Iván Duque, one person died and 98% of the island’s infrastructure was affected.
Providence is inhabited almost exclusively by descendants of African slaves and British colonizers, who speak an English version of Creole. The island does not have direct flights to the mainland, but it has become a popular tourist destination. Colombian authorities announced Tuesday the shipment of a ship with 15 tons of aid.
Iota is the 30th named storm in the intense Atlantic hurricane season. It is also the ninth to escalate rapidly this year, a dangerous phenomenon that occurs with increasing frequency.
In addition, it is the latest Category 5 hurricane in the year, beating Cuba’s record of November 8, 1932, said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University.
Hurricane season officially ends on November 30.
The Associated Press journalists Christopher Sherman in Mexico City, Marlos González in Tegucigalpa and Manuel Rueda in Bogotá contributed to this report.