At least 40 people have been killed in Central America after Hurricane Iota triggered landslides and flooding, sweeping through the already waterlogged region.
As rescue work continues authorities expect the number of deaths to rise. Most of the deaths have been in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Iota made landfall on Nicaragua’s coast late Monday as a Category-4 hurricane, the strongest on record to have hit the Central American country, and increased in strength to a Category 5 before weakening as it moved inland.
It inundated low-lying areas still reeling from Hurricane Eta, another powerful hurricane that battered Nicaragua and killed dozens of people in the region two weeks ago.
More than 130 people were killed by Eta as the hurricane triggered flash floods and mudslides in parts of Central America and Mexico.
In Honduras, much of the country’s industrial heartland in the northern Sula Valley was under water, as it was two weeks ago after Hurricane Eta. Water that had covered houses around the San Pedro Sula airport had begun to subside, however.
Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei held an emergency cabinet meeting Thursday to assess the situation in the country, where bridges and roads were destroyed and homes were swept away by floodwaters.
Some 160,000 Nicaraguans and 70,000 Hondurans have been forced to flee to shelters, where aid workers worry the chaotic conditions could lead to fresh outbreaks of COVID-19.
The Atlantic has seen a record storm season this year with 30 named storms and 13 hurricanes.
Scientists have said that warmer seas caused by climate change are making hurricanes stronger for longer after landfall.
Experts also said the destruction caused by the unprecedented 2020 hurricane season could spur more migration out of Central America, which is already coping with insecurity and an economic crisis triggered by coronavirus-related lockdowns imposed earlier this year.