Description of the disaster
One month after hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America and Colombia, affecting more than 7.5 million people, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns that millions are still in need of immediate humanitarian support in what has become one of the most challenging disasters faced by the region in recent history.
The IFRC and National Red Cross Societies are currently addressing the most urgent needs of over 100,000 people through seven simultaneous humanitarian operations in Colombia, Belize, Costa Rica, Panamá, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. The situation is especially severe in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, where over 7 million people have been affected by heavy rains, floods, and landslides. Results from In-depth damage and needs assessments paint a bleak humanitarian picture in both the short and medium term.
Nicaragua was exposed to two major meteorological events within a period of 14-days. Hurricane Eta, a category 4 storm, impacted the Northern Caribbean coast on 3 November, and Hurricane Iota, a category 5 storm, impacted the same area on 16 November and extended to the Pacific region, leaving severe damage in the region, including loss of lives.
Hurricane Eta hit the Northern Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua on 3 November as a category 4 with winds of 240 kilometers per hour, with a lifespan of over 30 hours it had a strong impact in the community of Wawa Bar in the Southwest of the city of Puerto Cabezas, Bilwi. After Eta, SINAPRED estimated that over 2 million people were exposed to this storm.
As a preventive measure, SINAPRED and the different response mechanisms in the country, including the Nicaraguan Red Cross evacuated nearly 70,000 people and opened 325 collective centres. A red alert was activated for the Caribbean region, a yellow alert for the departments of Wiwili, Jinotega, Nueva Segovia, Matagalpa, and Chinandega. The rest of the country was in green alert. The Pacific region was also affected by torrential rains that caused landslides and more than 300 collective centers and foster or host homes were activated to shelter families.
On 16 November, Hurricane Iota rapidly evolved from a category 4 to a category 5 on the Saffir Simpson scale.
Hurricane Iota made landfall on Nicaraguan soil in the community of Halouver (350 families with 1,750 people, mostly indigenous of Miskito origin) at 10:40 pm, with winds of 260 kph 45 kilometers south of Puerto Cabezas. During that same night, it was downgraded to a category 2 and impacted the municipality of Siuna as a category 1 with winds of 130 kilometers per hour, moving west to 15 kilometers per hour.
As a result of the impact of Hurricane Iota, the Northern Caribbean region was left isolated, without telephone and internet connection, electricity and drinking water supply service. The city of Puerto Cabezas showed severe devastation, homes were destroyed, the seaport was destroyed, the temporary hospital that was functioning had to be evacuated to the regional government headquarters since the building was beginning to give way to strong winds and the Bello Amanecer regional hospital suffered even more severe damage.
Iota, degraded to a tropical storm, then impacted the Nicaraguan Pacific region, leaving destruction of bridges, loss of homes due to landslides and winds, falling trees, and flooding in the departments of Rivas, Managua, Carazo, Jinotega, Nueva Segovia, Wiwili.
Summary of damage
The official report from the government following Iota was presented on 24 November with the following information (no further updates are available):
SINAPRED figures after Eta and Iota:
• A total of 56 municipalities were affected, with an estimate of 3 million people exposed3 to both events.
• Housing sector: this is the sector with the most relevant impact, since most of the affected population lost their home or sustained significant damages, which amounts to USD 126,171,000. There are 5,818 houses completely damaged and 39,600 with partial damages.
• Education sector: there is a very strong impact on the number of damaged classrooms and schools, with preliminary data amounting to USD 41,032,000. Damages are reported in 261 schools, 2 technology centers and 2 university campuses.
• Health sector: there is severe damage to the public health network, representing USD 12,629,000 including the impact on Bilwi hospital. A total of 16 SILAIS (Local Integrated Health Care Systems) were affected in 13 departments and in the two regions of the Northern and Southern Caribbean. Between regional, departmental, and primary hospitals, 15 buildings were affected. 19 health centers, 45 health posts, 5 maternity waiting homes and 11 logistical support structures such as warehouses for medical supplies and others, were also affected. In summary, a total of 95 structures that provide health services at national level were affected.
• Livelihoods / Productive sector: a full assessment on the agricultural losses is not ready yet. Losses on the fishing sector represent USD 19,649,000, agricultural sector USD 20,300,000 and tourism sector USD 7,100,000.
• Private sector: the mining sector has been affected with loses amounting to approximately USD 1,882,000.
• Infrastructure: 98 per cent of damages are focused on the road network and land transportation which amounts to USD 350,000,000. The total damages in infrastructure amounts to USD 361,911,000.
• Water transport: USD 2,000,000 in losses and damages.
• In Water and Sanitation, the damages are quantified in USD 6,604,000.
• Energy sector: USD 6,500,000.
• Telecommunications: USD 1,887,000.
• Environmental damages: USD 141,000,000, with 1,185,820.44 hectares of forest coverage exposed.
According to Plan International, in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala there were more than 130,000 people living in official shelters, including more than 53,000 children as of December 15. Many of the approximately 1,200 official shelters in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras lack adequate space and toilet facilities, leaving children without private spaces to wash, sleep and play and placing girls in particular at risk of harassment and gender-based violence