Description of the disaster
On 31 October 2020, Hurricane Eta originated as a tropical wave in the eastern Caribbean Sea, intensifying to become a Category 4 hurricane, making landfall south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua on 4 November, weakening and becoming a tropical storm, but continuing to move west of Nicaragua toward Honduras. According to information issued by the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH), the cloud bands released by the tropical depression Eta entered Guatemala, generating accumulated rainfall that exceeded 200 millimeters in 24 hours, especially over the northern regions, the northern transverse strip, the Caribbean and the east of the country, putting lives at risk and causing considerable material damage. In the village of Quejá, San Cristobal Verapaz in the department of Alta Verapaz, a community was buried, leaving 8 people dead, 4 injured, and 88 disappeared in the Agua Caliente neighborhood. In Camotán, Chiquimula, by water saturation, a retaining wall collapsed and left at least 10 people buried.
The government of Guatemala declared a State of Emergency in effect for 30 days in the 10 departments of Alta Verapaz, Izabal, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Petén, Quiché, Jutiapa, El Progreso and Santa Rosa, Huehuetenango. Almost two weeks after Hurricane Eta's impact, Hurricane Iota arrived in Nicaragua, passing through El Salvador as a tropical storm, degrading into a tropical depression while continuing its path westward to the Pacific Ocean. The rains associated with the tropical phenomena Eta and Iota caused landslides and flooding due rivers overflows in Guatemala, leaving the greatest impact on the departments of Izabal and Alta Verapaz. Many families suffered severe damage, and some communities remained inaccessible for weeks after the impact due to damage to the road network and floodwaters that did not recede. In some areas, water levels reached above two meters, others were covered in mud, tree branches and debris left by the mudslides.
As of 12 January, according to the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) consolidated incidents report, over 1.9 million people affected by Eta and Iota, including more than 1.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance, 60 people dead, 30 injured, at least 100 people missing, some 60,000 moderately to severely damaged homes and a large amount of affected and damaged national and community infrastructure, including roads, bridges, buildings, schools and health infrastructure. Among those affected, about 56,476 people are displaced in official and non-official collective centres.