A restrengthening Tropical Storm Eta hit Lower Matecumbe Key, Florida Sunday night. Officials warn it could strengthen into a hurricane and dump six to 12 inches of rain by Tuesday evening with some areas getting as much as 18 inches. The area is already saturated — Miami and Key West got nearly a foot, and just under eight inches of rain in October, respectively. The storm is expected to meander around the southeastern Gulf of Mexico for days. Eta’s Florida landfall comes as its human toll in Central America is revealed.
Villages buried and cut off
At least 100 people were killed in the mountain village of Queja, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala after landslides buried 150 houses under 50 feet of mud. Gloria Cac, a member of the Poqomchiʼ people and a resident of Queja, told Reuters 22 family members were missing after the mountain collapsed. “Her dad, mom, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, they’re all gone,” the interpreter said. Another resident, Fernando Cal Cac lost 23 family members. In Sibché, near Coban, Alta Verapaz, at least 80 families are trapped and have run out of food. The Poxlac Las Brisas community, near San Juan Ixcoy, Huehuetenango, is also underwater and trapped by floodwaters. “We have helped each other, even if it is one tortilla each, because we are all affected…almost the entire community is underwater,” José González Pérez, a resident of the village, told Prensa Libre [translated by Google].
Multiple villages are cut off as landslides and flooding collapsed at least 10 bridges and affected 14 others across the country, Prensa Libre reported, and in one case firefighters walked more than 10 kilometers across flooded areas to attempt to rescue a man trapped in his home. Though helicopter rescue efforts are being made across the country, in many places crews have been forced to simply drop food, clothing, and medicine to people stranded on their roofs because there is nowhere for the helicopter to land.
‘Dante-esque scenes’ across Central America
Flooding from the storm also killed more than 20 people in the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco. As of Friday, flooding of the Chamelecon River near San Pedro Sula, Honduras, people were still stranded on their roofs and the official death toll was likely to rise. “We know there are a lot of dead people, we’ve seen them, but until we receive official information we can’t certify them,” Marvin Aparicio, head of the Honduran emergency management agency, told reporters. “In the coming hours [as floodwaters recede], we are going to start to see, to our regret, Dante-esque scenes of people found dead.” Florida Landfall and forecast: Washington Post $, CNN, Weather Channel, New York Times $, AP, Yale Climate Connections; Quejá: Reuters, AP, Al Jazeera, New York Times $, BBC; Sibché: Prensa Libre; Poxlac Las Brisas: Prensa Libre; Airlifts: Prensa Libre; Bridges: Prensa Libre; Attempted rescue by foot: Prensa Libre; Airlifts: Prensa Libre; Honduras Flooding: AP; Climate Signals background: Hurricanes, 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season)