Back-to-back Hurricanes Eta and Iota set off an acute humanitarian crisis and likely a new surge of migration to the U.S., the New York Times, Reuters, and the Washington Post independently reported. The slow-moving storms intensified rapidly before making landfall and dumped torrential rainfall across the region, demonstrating how climate change is increasing extreme precipitation and has been linked to storms intensifying rapidly and moving more slowly. While the extent of their destruction is not yet known, the devastation is widespread, extreme, and exacerbates the intertwined crises of poverty and the coronavirus pandemic.
More than half a million people in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua were internally displaced by the storms, and reports indicate migration to the U.S. has already begun. The Guatemalan and Honduran governments have already requested temporary protected status (TPS) for their citizens in the United States. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández spent last week in Washington, D.C., lobbying U.S. officials and multilateral organizations for aid, and emphasizing the link between the hurricanes and climate change. “We are one of the countries that produce the least emissions,” he told the Washington Post. “But we are the hardest hit by these phenomena.” (New York Times $, Washington Post $, Reuters; Climate Signals background: Hurricanes, 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season)