Dozens dead in Central America as weakened Eta wreaks havoc
The rain-heavy remains of Hurricane Eta flooded homes from Panama to Guatemala on Thursday as the death toll from the storm system across Central America rose to at least 57.
Forecasters said the once-mighty storm, now a tropical depression, was expected to regather and head toward Cuba and possibly the Gulf of Mexico by early next week.
The storm that hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday had become more of a vast tropical rainstorm, but it was advancing so slowly and dumping so much rain that much of Central America remained on high alert.
Governments and aid organisations warned that the flooding and landslides the heavy rain generated had created a slow-moving humanitarian disaster across much of the region.
On Thursday afternoon, Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei said a water-soaked mountainside in the central part of the country had slid down onto the town of San Cristobal Verapaz, burying homes and leaving at least 25 dead.
Two other slides in Huehuetenango had killed at least 12 more, he said.
Earlier on Thursday, five others had been killed in smaller slides in Guatemala.
Guatemala’s toll was on top of 13 victims in Honduras and two in Nicaragua. Panamanian authorities reported eight missing.
Eta had sustained winds of 35mph and was moving north-northwest at 8mph on Thursday, when centred 60 miles west of La Ceiba, Honduras.
In Guatemala, two children died when their home collapsed under heavy rains in the central department of Quiche, according to a statement by local firefighters. A third person also died in Quiche, but details were not immediately available. Giammattei confirmed a fourth death in a landslide in Chinautla Wednesday night.
On Thursday, Giammattei said on local radio that 60% of the eastern city of Puerto Barrios was flooded and 48 more hours of rain were expected.
Honduras’ National Police said six more bodies had been found, bringing that country’s toll to 13. The bodies of two adults and two children were found after excavations in a mudslide that occurred Wednesday in the township of Gualala, and two boys aged eight and 11 died in another mudslide in the township of El Nispero.
Earlier, residents found the body of a girl buried in a landslide on Wednesday in mountains outside the north coast city of Tela. In the same area, a landslide buried a home with a mother and two children inside it, according to Honduras Fire Department spokesman Oscar Triminio. He said there was also a two-year-old girl killed in Santa Barbara department when she was swept away by floodwaters.
Heavy rain was forecast to continue across Honduras through at least Thursday as Eta moves toward the northern city of San Pedro Sula.