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Priests tell of ‘catastrophic’ impact of Iota in storm-weary Nicaragua

by Press Association

Catholic priests in Nicaragua have been supporting those impacted by Hurricane Iota. 

The devastation caused the hurricane became clearer on Wednesday as images emerged showing the trail of ruin left by the second Category 4 storm to blast Nicaragua's Caribbean coast in two weeks.

Nicaragua vice president and first lady Rosario Murillo has raised the nation's death toll to 16.

The victims were spread across the country, swept away by swollen rivers or buried in landslides.

Rolando Jose Alvarez, the Roman Catholic bishop of Matagalpa, said via Twitter on Wednesday that priests were being sent to the area.


Rescuers searched at the site of a landslide in northern Nicaragua, where the local government confirmed four deaths and neighbours spoke of at least 16.

A short video from the nation's emergency management agency showed a massive bowl-shaped mountainside shrouded in clouds that collapsed.

Police blocked media access to the site on the Macizo de Penas Blancas, a mountain in Matagalpa province, about 80 miles north of Managua.

There were seven confirmed dead at the mountain, and the search continued, Mrs Murillo said.

Miguel Rodriguez, who works on a ranch next to the site, said he saw at least seven bodies.

"The landslide came with all the dirt, and it became like a river going down. It took all of the little houses that were there. There were five homes, five families," Mr Rodriguez said.

One home was spared on the other side of the slide. But it was in a precarious position, and rescuers were trying to reach it, he said.

Nicaragua's army said it was sending 100 rescuers to the site. Access was complicated by downed trees blocking roads.

In the coastal city of Bilwi, a distraught Filimon Wilfred, 72, said Iota had destroyed his family's five houses leaving its 18 members homeless.

"The hurricane came, it destroyed my house, my daughter's house. It destroyed five houses in total," Mr Wilfred said. "Where am I going to live?"

Late on Wednesday, Guatemalan authorities said two people had died and two were missing following a landslide near Purulha in central Guatemala.

Iota arrived on Monday evening with winds of 155 mph, hitting nearly the same location as Hurricane Eta two weeks earlier.

By early Wednesday, Iota had dissipated over El Salvador, but the storm's torrential rains remained a threat. Parts of neighbouring Honduras were still under water from Eta.

The storm's centre passed just south of Tegucigalpa, the mountainous capital of Honduras, where residents of low-lying, flood-prone areas were evacuated, as were residents of hillside neighbourhoods vulnerable to landslides.

Along Honduras' remote eastern coast, people fled their homes as waters rose.

"What affected us most here was the flooding," said Teonela Paisano Wood, mayor of the Honduran town of Brus Laguna. "We are in danger if it keeps raining."

Panama reported that one person was killed and another missing in its western Indigenous autonomous Ngabe Bugle area near the border with Costa Rica.

Earlier this month, Eta caused more than 130 deaths as it triggered flash floods and mudslides in parts of Central America and Mexico.

The storm also left tens of thousands homeless in Honduras, which reported 74 deaths and nearly 57,000 people in shelters, mostly in the north.

Before hitting Nicaragua, Iota blew over the tiny Colombian island of Providencia, where Colombian President Ivan Duque said one person was killed and 98% of the island's infrastructure was "affected".

Iota was the 30th named storm of this year's historically busy Atlantic hurricane season.

It also developed later in the season than any other Category 5 storm on record, topping a November 8, 1932, Cuba hurricane, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

The hurricane season officially ends on 30th November.

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