Description of the disaster
Tropical Storm Eta formed in the Atlantic on the night of 31 October 2020. The system became a hurricane over the central Caribbean Sea region, approximately 835 km northeast of the Panamanian city of Colon (Colon province). On 3 November 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall in Nicaragua as a Category 4. While it did not make landfall in the country, Panama is experiencing the effects of the storm with heavy rains, floods and landslides.
On 4 November 2020, the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC) declared yellow alert for the province of Chiriquí following the report of several incidents in the Highlands district and the Cerro Punta, Paso Ancho and Volcán. As a result, all emergency response institutions were place on alert for the event.
Collateral effects of rain bands associated with the tropical storm were reported in the western part of the country, in the areas of Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro, Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, Veraguas, Coclé and Panama Oeste. Over 300mm of accumulated rain was recorded in most of the affected areas. Rains caused floods of the following rivers: Chiriquí Viejo, Fonseca, Jacú and Tabasará. All rivers in Chiriquí province have reached their highest level, causing major flooding, landslides, roadblocks, road collapse and destruction, falling trees, affected, and destroyed homes. Flooding has damaged agricultural land.
The President of the Republic of Panama activated the Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) throughout the country to coordinate among all entities to implement the responses and assistance needed to maintain an emergency front.
On 7 November, the government declared an Environmental emergency in Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí, Coclé, Herrera, Panamá Oeste, Veraguas and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé.
As of 8 November, State sources indicated that this emergency has caused 17 deaths, 62 people are missing, and 3,332 people have been affected. The government opened official collective centers to attend the evacuated population.
With COVID-19 testing in the collective centers, people testing positives are being lodged in hotels and other locations.
The Government of Panama opened 16 collective centers in the province of Chiriquí where 2,100 people are sheltered. As of 7 November, the Ministry of Housing and Territorial Organization reported 999 homes affected in the country due to floods, landslides and roofs flying off; the highest numbers being in Comarca Ngäbe Buglé (597) and Chiriquí (248). Water sources, including water production locations, also are severely affected.
Panama has been facing the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. The 14 days cumulative incidence is as of 9 November, 234 cases per 100K.2 Panama has recently been easing the confinement measures and re-establishing commercial blocks to facilitate economic recovery. The use of masks is mandatory, and a curfew is maintained from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM daily.