'We're really afraid': major Hurricane Eta pounds Nicaragua
By Oswaldo Rivas MANAGUA (Reuters) - Hurricane Eta, one of the most powerful storms to hit Central America in years, struck Nicaragua on Tuesday in an impoverished region of its Caribbean coast, battering homes and essential infrastructure and threatening to unleash deadly flooding. Eta hit the shore near the port of Puerto Cabezas, pulling roofs off houses, knocking down trees and power lines, and causing flooding in the region, said Guillermo Gonzalez, the head of Nicaragua's disaster management agency SINAPRED. The storm had been pummeling the coast with high winds and rain since around midnight, Gonzalez told a news conference.
By Oswaldo Rivas
MANAGUA (Reuters) - Hurricane Eta, one of the most powerful storms to hit Central America in years, struck Nicaragua on Tuesday in an impoverished region of its Caribbean coast, battering homes and essential infrastructure and threatening to unleash deadly flooding.
Eta hit the shore near the port of Puerto Cabezas, pulling roofs off houses, knocking down trees and power lines, and causing flooding in the region, said Guillermo Gonzalez, the head of Nicaragua's disaster management agency SINAPRED.
The storm had been pummeling the coast with high winds and rain since around midnight, Gonzalez told a news conference.
"We're really afraid, there are fallen poles, there's flooding, roofs torn off, some of the zinc on my house fell off," said Carmen Enriquez, a resident of Puerto Cabezas.
"We spent the whole night up worrying, it hasn't stopped raining, and they say it's just starting," she added.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Eta is an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, bringing "catastrophic" winds to Nicaragua.
Shortly before the Nicaraguan government announced the arrival of the storm, Eta was blowing sustained winds of 145 miles per hour (233 kph), the NHC said. According to the NHC, the eye of Eta was still not quite on land at 1500 GMT.
In neighboring Honduras, rivers burst their banks, towns and cities flooded on the Atlantic coast, and landslides hit roads.
There were no immediate reports of fatalities in Nicaragua. Media in Honduras reported the death of a 13-year-old girl in a mudslide on her home in a barrio of the northern city of San Pedro Sula, which has been hammered by rain.
The indigenous regions in Eta's path in northern Nicaragua are some of the country's poorest. Many people live in wooden homes that stand little chance against such a powerful storm.
Late on Monday, Javier Plat, a local Catholic priest, told Reuters there was a city-wide power outage in Puerto Cabezas and government-arranged shelters had reached capacity.
"This city of 70,000 people is very vulnerable. We have houses made of wood and adobe. The infrastructure of the residential houses is our main vulnerability," Plat said.
Nicaragua on Monday evacuated at least 3,000 families, including fishermen who live in the most vulnerable villages on the Atlantic coast, officials said. Some 20,000 people were taking cover in shelters, SINAPRED said on Tuesday.
The storm is forecast to move inland over northern Nicaragua through Wednesday morning and then hit central Honduras on Thursday. Once it collides with the mountains of Nicaragua and Honduras, it should weaken rapidly, the NHC said.
Ortega's government issued red alerts in several regions facing the hurricane. On Monday, ports in Honduras, where the government carried out evacuations, were forced to shut.
El Salvador also evacuated citizens as a precaution.
Eta is the 28th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, tying an all-time record set in 2005, the NHC said.
(Reporting by Ismael Lopez, Nelson Renteria and Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Bernadette Baum and Steve Orlofsky)
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