The heart of powerful Hurricane Eta began moving ashore in Nicaragua on Tuesday with devastating winds and rains that had already destroyed rooftops and caused rivers to overflow.
The hurricane had sustained winds of 140 mph according to the US National Hurricane Centre, down from an overnight peak of 150 mph.
While the eyewall of the Category 4 hurricane had hit shore, its centre was about 20 miles south-southeast of coastal Puerto Cabezas or Bilwi.
Landfall came hours after it had been expected. Eta’s eye had hovered just offshore through the night and Tuesday morning.
The unceasing winds uprooted trees and ripped roofs apart, scattering corrugated metal through the streets of Bilwi, the main coastal city in the region.
10 AM EST Tuesday, November 3 Hurricane #Eta Key Messages: Extremely dangerous Eta expected to bring life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, flash flooding, and landslides across portions of Central America. https://t.co/lQ8WhA2D3G pic.twitter.com/mW0ReBaBJw— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) November 3, 2020
The city’s regional hospital abandoned the building, moving patients to a technical school campus.
“It was an intense night for everyone in Bilwi, Waspam and the communities along the northern coast,” Yamil Zapata, local Bilwi representative of the ruling Sandinista Front, said on Tuesday.
Guillermo Gonzalez, director of the country’s emergency management agency, said in a news conference earlier that there were reports of corrugated metal roofs flying off homes, trees, poles and power lines falling and rivers rising in the coastal area.
So far, there were no reported injuries or deaths, he said.
About 10,000 people were in shelters in Bilwi and an equal number in smaller towns across the region, he said. The area had already been lashed with strong winds and heavy rain for hours.
Authorities in Nicaragua and Honduras had moved people Monday from outer islands and low-lying areas to shelters. Residents scrambled to shore up their homes, but few structures along Nicaragua’s remote Caribbean coast were built to withstand such force.
Nicaragua’s army moved red-helmeted troops specialised in search and rescue to Bilwi, a remote and sparsely populated area.
Nicaragua vice president and first lady Rosario Murillo appeared on television Monday and prayed for God to protect the country.