Eta lashes Nicaragua coast as “extremely dangerous” Cat 4 hurricane
Rio Wawa, Nicaragua, Nov 3 (efe-epa).- Hurricane Eta, a powerful Category 4 storm on the 5-point Saffir-Simpson scale and considered to be “extremely dangerous,” made landfall on Tuesday on Nicaragua’s northeastern coast, one of the most vulnerable and impoverished parts of the country and inhabited mainly by the descendants of African slaves and Miskito Indians.
Eta made landfall 35 kilometers (22 miles) south-southeast of the city of Bilwi, or Puerto Cabezas, with maximum sustained winds of 220 kph, according to the 6 pm advisory from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
The eye of the system, the 12th hurricane of the record-setting Atlantic hurricane season, is moving west at a speed of about 6 kph and bringing intense rains with heavy winds that have caused significant damage, although no injuries, or worse, have been reported so far, according to Nicaraguan authorities.
The assistant director of Nicaragua’s Sinapred disaster agency, Guillermo Gonzalez, told reporters in Managua that the storm had downed power poles, cutting electricity and telecommunications, as well as toppling trees and ripping off zinc roofs on homes in the region bearing the brunt of the hurricane.
In addition, Eta was causing flooding and rising rivers in the swampy and relatively unpopulated zone about the size of El Salvador.
“So far, we have no (injuries) reported,” the official added, announcing that authorities will issue an evaluation of the damage “as the hurricane advances.”
Nicaraguan authorities said that about 30,000 people are being housed in shelters established in churches, schools and safe houses.
However, local residents told EFE that they had no information about the storm and also were not alerted in time to take precautions or evacuate.
In addition, there is not enough food, beds or sheets at the shelters for the refugees, as EFE was able to determine in communities near Rio Wawa.
Local resident Miryam Pasquier told EFE that things are “going badly” at the shelter in which she is staying along with 20 other people because there’s no potable water and they cannot return to their homes because of the high winds.
“We have no food, we have no water, we have no (other) clothing. We have nothing,” Florencia Salvador Francis, an indigenous woman living on the banks of the Wawa River and staying at the same shelter, said.
Both women complained about the lack of food, blankets and medicines, as well as the lack of tarpaulins and plastic sheets to protect themselves from the rain.
According to UNICEF, Eta could put some 500,000 children at risk in Nicaragua, adding that it has prepared 3,000 family hygiene kits, 3,000 containers of water, 87 boxes of disinfection tablets and more than 3,400 cubic meters (some 900,000 gallons) of water and 50 clorine test kits to monitor the water quality with the capacity to perform 12,000 individual tests.
The director of Nicaragua’s Ineter weather institute, Marcio Baca, said that they are expecting Eta to move to the northwest by the end of the day, with its winds diminishing in force as the center of the storm moves over central Nicaragua.
On Wednesday afternoon, and having weakened to a tropical depression, according to the forecasts, the storm will cross the border into Honduras.
The effects of the storm across certain parts of Central America include storm surge, potentially catastrophic winds and intense rainfall that could cause sudden flooding and mudslides.
Eta increased in strength to a “major” hurricane – or Category 3 storm – on Monday, and shortly thereafter moved to Category 4 as traversed the Caribbean Sea approaching Nicaragua.
The storm is the 13th hurricane to hit Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast in the past 13 years and the second most destructive, exceeded only by Felix in 2007, according to official records.