Powerful Hurricane Eta Enters Nicaragua

Graphic: National Hurricane Center

HAVANA TIMES – By Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. (ET) the Category 4 storm reached the coastline south of Bilwi, Nicaragua. The weather system with maximum winds of 140 mph (225 kph) was moving slowly west at 3 mph (5 kph), reported Confidencial.

The front end of the weather system had entered the municipality of Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas) early Tuesday. The seat of the North Atlantic Region of Nicaragua has approximately 75,000 inhabitants.

Evacuations were under way since yesterday but the situation was far from under control. The North Caribbean region is known for general abandonment by the authorities.  The housing stock is extremely precarious in the face of strong weather systems.

Little information or preparation

In Bilwi, Juana Bilbano of the NGO Cejudhacan reported that the population suffers a lack of information and help from the government. “There was no warning, nobody came to the neighborhoods; they cut the electricity way ahead of the storm.  There was no information on which shelters were set up,” she noted.  

Evacuees in Bilwi, Nicaragua

Without keeping any kind of distance, without masks, without mats or food supplies and with irregular basic services, people sought shelter in schools or churches that opened their doors to function as shelters before the arrival of Hurricane Eta.  

Bilbano denounced overcrowding at some shelters set up in the schools and churches of Loma Verde, Bilwi. She said “they slept on sheets with children, the elderly or the sick. They didn’t take any type of measure to prevent the possible spread of the Covid, nobody wore masks.”

In her house, located in Bilwi’s Nueva Jerusalem neighborhood, Bilbano welcomed 25 persons. She said “many arrived only with plastic, without clothes and with food for one day, because they were not informed of the magnitude of the hurricane.”

“We feel abandoned”

Vicente Perez is a judge of ten indigenous communities in Tawira, located 20 kilometers from the city of Bilwi. He said they feel “abandoned” in their communities, since they were never evacuated. Moreover, they have no energy service to be communicated. They had to “use their scarce resources to move children and women,” said Perez.

“The men are staying at home. They are poorly built houses, made of wood, that can’t withstand anything.” He added “nor are the schools in the area here useful as shelters because the roofs are damaged.”

The National Hurricane Center warns that 15 to 35 inches of rain could fall in parts of Nicaragua by Friday, causing devastating flooding.

Civil Defense authorities (Sinapred) informed; “After its landfall a weakening process will begin that should be gradual as Eta moves towards the Mining Triangle. It may arrive there as a tropical storm, before heading towards the north of Jinotega, later to Nueva Segovia and leaving for Honduras on Wednesday afternoon.”

Limbort Bucardo, of the opposition Blue and White movement in Bilwi, told Confidencial that the population is highly alarmed by the force of the hurricane. He recalled the significant damage from Hurricane Felix back in 2007.  And the rest of Nicaragua also remembers Hurricane Juana in 1988 and Mitch in 1998.

Read more news on Havana Times here.