This report is produced by OCHA in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 15 to 20 November 2020. The next report will be issued on or around 25 November.
Despite quickly degrading from a Category 4 storm to remnants in about a 24-hour span on 17 November, Iota’s rains and high winds affected communities in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, many of which already had pressing humanitarian needs from Eta, further aggravating needs in shelter, food security, WASH, health and protection.
Governments and humanitarian partners on the ground continue to overcome access challenges to undertake more thorough assessments and reach isolated communities with critical needs.
Humanitarian organizations at the regional and national level are scaling up resource mobilization efforts to support commensurately scaled up response efforts, including a US$69.2 million Flash Appeal to support immediate assistance to 450,000 people in Honduras out of the estimated 2.3 million with humanitarian needs.
People affected directly or indirectly by Eta and Iota across nine Latin American and Caribbean countries
People directly and indirectly affected by Iota in Honduras
People across Honduras evacuated over Iota
People directly affected by Eta and Iota in Guatemala
People potentially affected by agriculture losses in Guatemala
Source: UN in Guatemala
Iota made landfall over northern Nicaragua early on 17 November as a Category 4 storm, reaching sufficient intensity to qualify as the strongest Atlantic hurricane in 2020, the busiest season ever recorded and the only season ever to see two major hurricanes in November. Although Iota quickly degraded into a remnant low pressure area on 18 November, the driving rains and high winds during its short crossing from Nicaragua into Honduras and parts of Guatemala affected many of the same areas in these countries that are still struggling with Eta’s crushing impact and effects on shelter, food security, WASH, health and protection. Between Eta, Iota and their interactions with other weather systems, areas in nine countries in the region (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia) suffered humanitarian impacts that have potentially directly or indirectly affected as many as 5.2 million people.
In Nicaragua, Iota’s rains reached as far as the western Pacific shores, causing flooding and saturating soil in the North, Central Pacific and Caribbean regions. Official sources site 40,000 people in need of food, 4,000 destroyed homes and 18 deaths. More than 50,700 people across 1,195 active shelters require food and medical and psychosocial attention. Notable impacts include contaminated water storage systems, roofing damage, extensive power failures and cuts to telecommunications and access from the Puerto Cabezas municipality, now cut off from Managua and Waspam due to flooded roads. Puerto Cabezas’ isolation is especially concerning, as it is the point of entry for supplies to the area. Moreover, Iota all but destroyed the seaport and two local markets. Additionally, the Ministry of Health reports damages to 16 of 81 health facilities, while the Ministry of Education reports damage to 76 schools in the Prinzapolka, Puerto Cabezas and Waspam municipalities.
Honduras’ Permanent Commission for Contingencies (COPECO) civil protection authority reports that Iota affected more than half a million people across the country, raised the November storms death toll by 14 and have increased the sheltered population to nearly 75,000 people. Many areas in the highly flood-prone Cortés department in the north-west suffered renewed flooding, prompting further evacuations and search and rescue operations, adding to the already high number of people requiring humanitarian assistance from humanitarian organizations already responding to Eta’s various effects. Communities in the north-east departments of Colón and Gracias a Dios also suffered varying degrees of damage. With Iota travelling further south than Eta, southern and central departments such as Francisco Morazán took on rains that present serious landslide risks amid more mountainous terrain, as well.
Guatemala’s National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) reports that Iota has raised the number of people directly affected by the November storms to more than 935,000 people, raising the overall death toll to 55 people and raising the sheltered population to more than 24,000 in official shelters and nearly 180,000 in unofficial shelters. Iota affected nearly all departments in Guatemala, with the northern and eastern departments previously affected by Eta accounting for the most impact, notably Alta Verapaz and Izabal. Generally speaking, Guatemala did not suffer as much widespread impact as Honduras, but affected areas are presenting equally serious and critical needs.
El Salvador was again largely spared by Iota, taking on high winds and minor landslides that again prompted preventive evacuations and subsequent humanitarian response from networks such as the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), who delivered supplies and resources to shelters. While El Salvador may not be dealing with nearly the same scale of impact as Honduras or Guatemala, they are nevertheless contending with overcrowded shelters stemming from the cumulative effects of tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal in late May, the recent Nejapa landslide, Eta and now Iota, with reported difficulties in determining how many of the 880 people in shelters each hazard accounts for.
Prior to slamming Central American shores, Iota and related rains notably caused distressing consequences in northern Colombia, particularly in the islands of San Andrés and Providencia in the Caribbean Sea, bringing the number of countries in the region affected by the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season to nine. Such impacts are rare in Colombia, the lone South American country among the affected. Providencia reports Iota damaged 100 per cent of its infrastructure, destroyed 80 per cent of all homes on the island and affected 6,300 people who are still without any electricity. San Andrés reports at least 700 affected families in official and makeshift shelters. Damage evaluations show impact to 80 per cent of electricity infrastructure.
South-eastern Mexico also took on Iota’s rains, with Civil Protection reporting a cumulative death toll of 30 people and nearly 297,000 people affected across Chiapas, Tabasco and Veracruz. Material damages include nearly 59,000 affected homes and affected roads cutting off 135 communities.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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