On November 3, Hurricane Eta made landfall along Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast (26km south of Bilwi) as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds near 140mph (220 km/h) and continued moving towards the west near 6mph (9kmh/h). On 4 November 2020, the system rapidly weakened to a tropical storm, but nonetheless caused extensive damage in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, and Jamaica.
Two weeks later, on November 16, Hurricane Iota, a category 5 storm, made landfall in the Colombian archipelago of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina. It moved along the northeastern coast of Nicaragua near the town of Haulover with sustained winds near 155 mph (250 km/h). On November 17, Iota weakened to a Tropical Storm, moving into southern Honduras and Guatemala.
Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, which were located in the direct path of both hydrometeorological events, are the most severely affected countries. Hurricane Eta and Iota left a path of devastation in Central America, with more than 6.5 million persons directly affected. Approximately 441,000 have been evacuated and suffered significant dwelling and livelihoods losses. Over 125 health facilities across all three countries are reporting infrastructural damage further reducing the capacities of the national health systems already overstretched by the COVID-19 pandemic. Reduced access to drinking water, loss of adequate sanitation, and power outages have also been reported. Conditions in some shelters remain precarious due to inadequate infrastructure, sanitation, and limited access to safe water, all critical to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infections and other communicable diseases endemic in the affected countries.
As a consequence of the impact of the Hurricane in highly vulnerable areas along the Central American Caribbean Coast, urgent humanitarian actions are needed to ensure availability of urgent healthcare, adequate WASH conditions, increased epidemiological surveillance, and vector control.
Preliminary estimates to cover urgent healthcare, WASH, epidemiological surveillance and vector-control needs in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua -the countries most affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota- for the next 6 months.
Eta, a tropical depression that originated in the Eastern Caribbean Sea, quickly intensified reaching hurricane force on 2 November 2020. In less than 12 hours, Hurricane Eta strengthened into a category 4 storm, with sustained winds peaking at 140 mph. The system made landfall along Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast on 3 November 2020 and continued moving towards the west for several hours at an average speed of 6mph. On 4 November 2020, Hurricane Eta rapidly weakened to tropical storm.
On 16 November 2020, Hurricane Iota made landfall in the Colombian archipelago of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina during the early morning and became a category 5 storm around 11:34 am. At 10:45pm, Hurricane Iota made landfall as a category 4 storm, with sustained winds near 155 mph (250 km/h), along the northeastern coast of Nicaragua near the town of Haulover. On November 17, Iota weakened to a Tropical Storm moving into southern Honduras and Guatemala and dissipated on 18 November 2020.
The explosive intensification of Iota and subsequent landfall in Central America aggravated a dire humanitarian situation resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of Eta just two weeks prior.
While field needs assessments are still ongoing to evaluate the full extent of impact and identify the most urgent needs of the affected communities, preliminary reports from the National Health Authorities and PAHO’s experts present in or deployed to the affected countries (Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, Belize, Panama, Jamaica, and Nicaragua) indicate severe damages to physical infrastructures, including houses, roads, industries, etc. In particular, over 125 health facilities have reported damages.
It is estimated that more than 6.5 million people have been affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota. 150 deaths and 116 missing persons have been reported. As of 16 November 2020, more than 441,000 people have been evacuated in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize, Colombia, and Panama. 76,640 people were relocated in 492 temporary shelters in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador.
For more information on PAHO's response to Hurricanes Eta and Iota, please click here.