Hurricane Iota: At least 30 dead in strongest Atlantic hurricane of the year
At least 30 people have lost their lives as the strongest Atlantic hurricane of the year rips through areas of Central America.
Tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes as Hurricane Iota hit Nicaragua and neighbouring countries.
The rainfall is expected to cause mudslides and potentially deadly flash flooding and river flooding.
Winds of 257km/h (160mph) have hit areas still recovering from Eta, a major hurricane that hit two weeks ago.
Deaths were recorded in Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, Panama and El Salvador.
Hundreds of thousands of people have moved into shelters in the region.
The hurricane remains significant but has now weakened in terms of wind strength and has sustained winds of 170km/h. It will continue to weaken as it moves further inland.
Iota is the strongest Atlantic hurricane of the year and only the second November hurricane to reach category five – the last was in 1932.
This year’s Atlantic hurricane season has broken the record for the number of named storms. For only the second time on record officials have had to start using the letters of the Greek alphabet to start storm names after running out of names on its traditional alphabetical list.
Eta left at least 200 people dead. The worst-hit area was Guatemala’s central Alta Verapaz region, where mudslides buried dozens of homes in the village of Quejá, with some 100 people feared dead. At least 50 deaths were reported elsewhere in Guatemala.
The National Hurricane Center is still monitoring two disturbances in the Atlantic Ocean that each has a low of forming anytime soon.
Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, forecasters said that Iota dissipated over Central America but would still bring the threat of heavy rain.
The hurricane, which reached Category 5 force, made landfall Monday night as a strong Category 4 hurricane as it arrived in Nicaragua in nearly the same place Eta had. Eta, a Cat 4 hurricane, battered the area two weeks ago.
As for the other two disturbances: The first is a broad area of low pressure that has formed over the southwestern Caribbean Sea and is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms, according to the NHC’s 7 p.m. advisory.
“Development, if any, of this system is expected to slow to occur during the next several days while it drifts west-southwestward or westward across the southwestern Caribbean Sea,” forecasters wrote.
Regardless of formation, forecasters say heavy rain is possible during the next several days from Nicaragua southward across Central America and into Colombia, a region still reeling from the effects of previous storms.
The rains could cause new flooding concerns.
The disturbance has a low 10% chance of forming in the next five days.
The other disturbance is a non-tropical area of low pressure that could form between the Bahamas and Bermuda by early next week.
“The system could gradually develop subtropical characteristics through the middle of next week while it moves northeastward,” forecasters wrote.
This disturbance has a low 20% of forming in the next five days.