Iota is now considered the strongest storm to hit Nicaragua in the country’s history and has killed six people, according to the Nicaraguan government.
Four adults and two minors are dead, according to Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo.
More than 400,000 people in Nicaragua were affected by the storm as it made landfall near Haulover, Tuesday as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph, according to the NHC.
Over 62,000 people in the Central American nation have been moved into 683 government shelters following the storm, the country’s government said on national television Tuesday.
There is almost no communication with the city of Bilwi, also known as Puerto Cabezas, due to blackouts and fallen electrical cables.
In Columbia, at least two people have died and one is missing, according to Colombian President Ivan Duque.
Iota was downgraded to a Category 4 storm as it made landfall and is currently moving west at 12 mph, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. The center of the storm is expected to move over southern Honduras Tuesday, and continue weakening near El Salvador Wednesday.
The storm is currently 35 miles (55 km) southeast of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and has maximum wind speeds of 50 mph (80 kph), according to NHC’s 6 p.m. advisory. Iota is expected to be further downgraded to a tropical depression Tuesday evening.
Iota dissipating has done nothing to minimize the devastation to a region still recovering from Eta.
Swells from the storm will be felt as far north as the Yucatán Peninsula, as far east as Jamaica and as far south as Colombia. Its landfall was just 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta struck, potentially leaving the region scarred for generations.
In several cities in the Rivas region of Nicaragua, a strip of land between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean in the nation’s southwest, authorities are monitoring rivers and placing vulnerable families in shelters, NHC said.
Photos from the agency show people wading through knee-high water in Rivas and in Bilwi, on the northern coast. Residents of Bilwi, where telecommunications have been impacted, were asked to “maintain calm, stay away from places that are vulnerable or that represent some danger to human security.”
More than 100 people evacuated on Colombian island of Providencia
At least two people are dead and one is missing on Providencia, Colombia President Ivan Duque said on Tuesday. One hundred and twelve people were evacuated from the island Tuesday, among them six seriously injured.
“We are glad that, thanks to our preparations and the measures we took, the community of Providencia has not been affected by a huge death toll,” Duque said. “We mourn, though, the loss of two people.”
The island’s infrastructure has been completely wiped out, Duque said. The priority is now to clear the island of debris and set up emergency campsites and field hospitals as quickly as possible.
Local mayor Jorge Norberto Gari Hooker had ordered a total curfew from Sunday evening and set up 15 municipal shelters for population to hunker down in.
The islands of San Andres and Providencia, located just northwest of Colombia’s mainland, have for the first time in recorded history felt the impact of a Category 5 hurricane, Duque said on Monday.
30 inches of rain forecast in some locales
It will continue inland into Nicaragua on Tuesday afternoon before moving into southern Honduras late Tuesday. Iota should dissipate near El Salvador by Wednesday night, the Hurricane Center said on Tuesday afternoon.
The storm has dumped heavy rain, with Honduras and large portions of Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize expecting at least 10 inches and up to 30 inches through Thursday, while areas from El Salvador to Panama can expect 4 to 8, with isolated maximums of 12 inches.
“This rainfall will lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain,” the hurricane center said in its latest alert on Tuesday.
“Swells generated by Iota will affect much of the coast of Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula during the next day or so. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”
Central America still recovering from Eta
Iota will be the second major hurricane to hit the area in as many weeks. On November 3, Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 storm, causing landslides and flooding that displaced thousands and left scores of people dead or missing.
It is the 13th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, a historic season bringing 30 named storms – the most ever. This is the latest in the year there has ever been a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Basin, according to the hurricane center.
More than 3.6 million people across Central America have been affected by the storm to varying degrees, the Red Cross said earlier this week.
While the full extent of the damage from Eta won’t be known for a while, the powerful storm, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, may have effects that last for years.
The storm hovered for days over Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, with heavy rains creating flooding and landslides that wiped out entire communities.
Dozens of people in the remote Guatemalan village of San Cristobal remain missing after a landslide swept through last week, leaving mud 50 feet deep in some places.
CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon, Hollie Silverman, Gene Norman and Robert Shackelford contributed to this report.