Reeling under the destruction after Hurricane Eta, Honduras and Guatemala are bracing for another tropical storm to hit the region.
A statement on from the United States-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that Tropical Storm Iota was expected to strengthen, bringing “dangerous winds, storm surge and rainfall” to Central America starting on Monday.
“Iota is forecast to be at or near major hurricane strength when it approaches Central America,” the agency said in its statement.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said on Saturday that he had ordered evacuations for areas expected to be affected by the incoming storm.
“We are concerned about the area of Alta Verapaz and Quiche. We believe that they are the areas where we could have the greatest impact,” Giammattei said. “We hope God helps us.”
In Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernandez also urged people in the path of Iota to evacuate to the nearest shelters. “Iota is going to put our lives and our economy at risk again,” he said.
The region is still recuperating after Category 4 Hurricane Eta struck earlier this month, killing at least 120 people.
Guatemala’s Alta Verapaz region has been especially hard hit by Eta, as a mountain partly collapsed in the village of Queja, killing and burying alive dozens of people.
Rescue operations across Honduras and Guatemala were slowed by destroyed roads and bridges, forcing authorities to draft in the military and use helicopters and speedboats to rescue people stranded on top of their houses.
Iota is already a record-setting system, being the 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season.
Such activity has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
The NHC said the storm could lead to life-threatening flash flooding and cause rivers to burst their banks in parts of Haiti, Jamaica and Central America through Wednesday.