PURULHA, – Seekers in Guatemala digging for mud and debris for a search an estimated 100 people are believed to have been buried by a massive landslide caused by rain, as the remnants of Hurricane Eta intensified. early Saturday when the storm made landfall towards Cuba.
Eta is forecast to return to a tropical storm on Saturday as it travels across the Caribbean Sea and the US National Hurricane Center has issued tropical storm watches for the northwest of the Bahamas, southern Florida and the Florida Keys. Eta’s hub is expected to reach the Cayman Islands on Saturday, near Cuba on Saturday and Sunday nights, and reach the Florida Keys or South Florida by the end of Sunday.
Returning to Central America, where Eta reached as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday before weakening to a tropical depression, authorities from Panama to Mexico are still investigating damage from floods and landslides after the days. heavy rain. The number of confirmed deaths is in the dozens and is expected to increase.
On Friday, search teams in Guatemala pulled the first bodies from a landslide in San Cristobal Verapaz, but work has been slow and help is underway. The first teams had to overcome several landslides and deep mud to get to the location where officials had estimated some 150 homes destroyed.
In neighboring Honduras, 68-year-old María Elena Mejía Guadron died when the brown waters of the Chamelecon River poured into the Planeta neighborhood of San Pedro Sula before dawn Thursday.
Mirian Esperanza Nájera Mejía ran away from home in the dark with her two children and her mother, Mejía. But while she held onto her children, the electric current washed away Mejía.
Nájera continued to desperately search for her mother on Friday morning. But Mejía’s body was later recovered and taken to the morgue where her relatives identified her.
“When the floods started, the whole family was leaving the house,” said family friend Nery Solis. “Mirian has two children of her own and all of a sudden an electric current takes over them and she can’t find her mother.”
The family transported Mejía’s body to the western city of Copan Friday. Her funeral was scheduled for Saturday.
According to Chiapas state civil defense official, Elías Morales Rodríguez, in southern Mexico, across the border with Guatemala, 19 people died from heavy rains caused by Eta causing landslides and flooding rivers and rivers.
The worst incident in Mexico occurred in the mountainous town of Chenalho, where 10 people were swept away by rainwater; Their bodies were later found downstream. Mexico’s National Meteorological Agency said “Eta’s wide circulation is causing torrential rains on the Yucatan peninsula and in southeastern Mexico.”
But a massive slide in the central mountains of Guatemala threatens to double the reported death toll in Central America in a remote community.
Late Friday, military spokesman Rubén Tellez said soldiers and community members had recovered the first three bodies. Hundreds of tons of mud, rocks and debris were swept away by the others.
Rescue teams struggled for hours on Friday reaching the site from two different approaches. Smaller landslides blocked the highway and destroyed the dirt road leading to the Queja community at the foot of the slide. The indigenous community of about 1,200 residents consists of simple wooden houses and tin roofs clinging to the mountainside.
Tropical Depression Eta was concentrated 275 miles west-southwest of Grand Cayman late on Friday. It is moving northeast at 12 mph and has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.
Typhoon Eta reached northeastern Nicaragua followed by pouring rainy days as it approached shore. Its slow, winding road north through Honduras pushed rivers overflowing and poured into residential areas where families were forced to climb rooftops awaiting rescue.
The Honduran government estimates more than 1.6 million people have been affected. It said the rescues took place on Friday in San Pedro Sula and La Lima, but demand was huge and resources were limited.
The US State Department said in a statement Friday that four US helicopters from Soto Cano Air Base near Tegucigalpa had flown to San Pedro Sula to participate in rescue operations. American helicopters are also supporting in Panama, where authorities have confirmed five deaths in the province of Chiriqui, a western border with Costa Rica.