By Andrea Sosa Cabrios, dpa
HAVANA TIMES– Tropical depression Eta on Thursday sparked massive flooding in Central America, with evacuations under way in Honduras while Guatemala decreed a partial state of emergency.
Eta made landfall as a hurricane in Nicaragua on Tuesday and entered Honduras as a tropical depression on Wednesday, bringing heavy rains and claiming at least 25 lives in the region.
The Honduran government appealed to residents to urgently leave areas in the north-west threatened by a “catastrophic” overflowing of River Ulua.
Its water level was already above that recorded during 1998 hurricane Mitch, which killed at least 9,000 people across Central America, the presidency said on Twitter.
Security forces and rescuers were using speedboats and helicopters to evacuate residents, some of whom had climbed to the roofs of their houses.
President Juan Orlando Hernandez appealed to them to obey the authorities to “protect their lives.”
State of emergency in Guatemala
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei meanwhile announced a state of emergency in nine regions, saying people were being rescued “from trees, from the roofs of their houses.”
In Puerto Barrios on the eastern coast, it rained the same amount in 10 hours that normally falls in a month at this time of the year, according to the president. About 60 per cent of the city of 100,000 residents was under water.
Eleven people have been killed in Honduras in landslides or after being carried away by currents during flooding, firefighters’ General Inspector Marco Antonio Artica told television news programme Hoy Mismo.
The Guatemalan disaster management agency CONRED reported five deaths and said three people remained missing.
In Panama, five people were reported to have died and two to have gone missing in Chiriqui province. An eastern Costa Rica,couple was killed when a landslide hit their home, according to daily La Nacion.
In Nicaragua, two miners had been killed on Tuesday when a landslide struck their mine.
Eta also caused extensive material damage in the region.
It raised high waves in the Colombian archipelago of San Andres and Providencia, where more than 60 homes and commercial establishments that had served tourists were destroyed or damaged, according to broadcaster Caracol.
Dozens of fallen trees blocked roads in the archipelago, which declared a state of public calamity.
Eta was expected to again gather strength as it heads out to the Caribbean Sea on Friday.
“This rainfall will lead to catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain of Central America,” the US National Hurricane Center said.
“Significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding is possible in the Cayman Islands and Cuba,” it warned.
Heavy rains were forecast also in Jamaica and in south-eastern Mexico.