Powerful Hurricane Eta threatens flooding across Central America

Powerful Hurricane Eta threatens flooding across Central America
A satellite image shows Hurricane Eta in the Gulf of Mexico approaching Honduras and Nicaragua (NOAA via AP)

Powerful Hurricane Eta is heading towards Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast with potentially devastating winds.

Heavy rain from its storm bands is already causing rivers to overflow across Central America.

The Category 4 hurricane had sustained winds of 145mph, and the US National Hurricane Centre said it was likely to maintain that strength until making landfall later on Tuesday.

It was centred about 30 miles south east of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and moving west-south-west at nearly 4mph. Hurricane-force winds were already blowing on land.

Authorities in Nicaragua and Honduras have moved people 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 has moved troops which specialise in search and rescue to Bilwi, the main coastal city in an otherwise remote and sparsely populated area. The navy spent Monday ferrying residents of coastal islands to shelters in Bilwi, also known as Puerto Cabezas.

The government said more than 3,000 families were taken to shelters from the most at-risk areas.

On television on Monday, Nicaragua vice president and first lady Rosario Murillo prayed for God to protect the country. She said Nicaragua would apply lessons learned from previous storms.

“How many hurricanes have come and we have moved on, thanks to God,” she said.

Along Honduras’ northern Caribbean coast, torrential rain from Eta’s outer bands caused some rivers to overwhelm their banks, forcing evacuations.

This could be only the beginning of Eta’s destruction. The storm was forecast to spend the week meandering over Central America, dumping rain measured in feet not inches.

Forecasters said central and northern Nicaragua into much of Honduras could get 15 to 25 inches of rain, with 35 inches in isolated areas. Heavy rain is also likely in eastern Guatemala, southern Belize and Jamaica.

A storm surge up to 15 feet above normal tides was possible for the coast of Nicaragua, forecasters said.

Eta is the 28th named Atlantic storm this season.

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