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CARIB | Nov 5, 2020

Eta kills five in Central America, storm re-emerges in the Caribbean Sea by Friday

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

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Garbage and debris are seen on the Masachapa river after Hurricane Eta swept the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast in Masachapa on Wednesday, November 4. (Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters)

Tropical depression Eta continues its onslaught of torrential rain and damaging winds across much of Central America on Thursday (November 5), ahead of an expected re-entry to the Caribbean Sea this weekend.

According to the US-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), Eta—which made landfall late Tuesday in Nicaragua as a powerful category four hurricane—is expected to emerge over the Gulf of Honduras later tonight.

The storm is anticipated to restrengthen on its approach to the Cayman Islands and western Cuba into Friday, before heading to Florida by early next week.

“On the forecast track, the centre of Eta is expected to
move across northwestern Honduras through this afternoon, and
emerge over the Gulf of Honduras by tonight. Eta is forecast to
approach the Cayman Islands and western or central Cuba this
weekend,” the NHC advised in a 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time (EST) bulletin.

Photo courtesy of the National Hurricane Center.

At the time of publication, tropical depression Eta was located at latitude 15.1 North, longitude 87.8 West—or roughly 130 kilometres southwest of La Ceiba, Honduras.

The disorganised system is moving northwesterly at 15 kilometres/hour and currently packs maximum sustained winds of 45 kilometres/hour, with higher gusts.

Honduras girded for further floods and landslides even as Storm Eta weakened into a tropical depression on Wednesday on its course towards Florida, after at least five deaths and dozens of fishermen left stranded in the Atlantic.

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According to Reuters, the storm has damaged homes, roads and bridges, across swathes of Nicaragua and Honduras, forcing thousands of people to flee to shelters.

With alerts active for “life-threatening flash flooding,” Honduras declared a state of emergency, allowing officials to order evacuations.

“The most important thing is human life,” government spokesman Carlos Madero told reporters.

By evening, Eta was about 70 miles (115 km) east of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, and blowing maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph).

Amid the pummeling rain, a 15-year-old boy drowned trying to cross a river and a 13-year-old girl died in a landslide on her home.

Dozens of people living along Tegucigalpa’s Choluteca river evacuated as the water overflowed from the banks.

A man recovers plastic barrels from a business affected by a flooding caused by rains from Storm Eta, in Toyos, Honduras. (Photo: Jorge Cabrera, Reuters)

About 60 fishermen were trapped at sea in the eastern Mosquitia region of Honduras, possibly taking shelter on Caribbean keys, and had not yet returned by evening, said Robin Morales, a representative of the local population.

The deluge was so extreme in the northern Honduran city of El Progreso that a prison flooded to waist level and 604 inmates were transferred to local gyms, officials said.

In Nicaragua, the storm downed trees and power lines and caused serious flooding. Local media reported that two wildcat miners were killed by a mudslide.

Before Eta retreats, it is expected to dump another 15-30 inches of rain over Honduras, Guatemala and Belize, and another 15-20 inches over Nicaragua. Some areas could see up to 40 inches, NHC said.

People stand on the bridge that crosses the Masachapa river under the rain caused by Storm Eta in Masachapa, Nicaragua on Wednesday, November 4. Photo: Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters)

The storm has killed one person in Guatemala, where rains felled trees and unleashed landslides, authorities said.

Through Monday morning, flooding is also possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, southern Haiti, the Cayman Islands and western Cuba.

Eta is the 28th named tropical storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, tying a record set in 2005, the NHC said.

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