Responding to Hurricanes Eta & Iota in Central America
Rescuers are desperately trying to reach survivors after Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota ripped through Central America - just days apart from one another. Tearfund’s partner organizations in the region are asking for urgent prayer as they respond.
Since Eta made landfall on November 3, the United States’ election day, news reports were buried under headlines about election results. Eta was the second-most intense November hurricane on record, with wind speeds of up to 150mph.
Rains and flooding created a landslide in Guatemala that left 44 people dead and destroyed homes and businesses. In Honduras, the authorities issued a red alert for the entire country, with 57 people losing their lives in the flooding.
Before Iota appeared on the radar, Alexis Pacheco, who leads Tearfund’s work in Central America, noted that Eta was the worst storm his region had faced since Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998. “The level of destruction of people’s harvest will be similar or worse than when Mitch hit,” Alexis said. “Central America had a drought for four years and this year the rainy season was fantastic with a record production of food. Sadly most of the harvest has been destroyed by Eta.”
“The problems in two or three months will be even harder because of the food shortages, having lost the crops. People are very depressed and on top of the coronavirus this is so much,” Alexis added.
A November 9 report from UN OCHA said more than 370,000 acres of crops in Honduras had been lost or damaged due to Hurricane Eta, which is 70% of all crops in the country. This devastation of farmland is only expected to worsen due to the flooding caused by Iota, and will compound the economic and hunger crises brought on by Covid-19.
Less than two weeks after Eta, Iota made landfall just 15 miles from where Eta initially struck in Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s government said that it was the strongest storm in history to hit the country.
Over 62,000 people in the Central American nation were moved into just 683 government shelters following the storm. For these people who’ve relocated into the shelters, the possibility of infection now looms large.
“There will be an outbreak soon, especially in the shelters with very limited measures – not enough masks and other items to prevent contamination. People are trying to save their lives right now – to get away from the rain and wind, but are not so concerned about coronavirus,” Alexis added.
Our church partners in Nicaragua and Honduras are working together with local pastors, using their church buildings as shelters.
Our partners are also working to assess the needs of the most vulnerable and to provide for those who have lost everything. Local churches have been trained in how to respond to a disaster like this. “I feel very proud of my partners,” said Alexis. “They are so ready to support their communities. The church is more open now [than at the time of Hurricane Mitch] to help the communities – now many churches are opening as shelters which is amazing.”
Only more recently have people started to take notice of the situation in Central America. “Everyone was immersed in US elections and other stories. Central America is not covered much in the international media – but we are an important area on the continent. The impact in this area is huge. It is hard for our people to face coronavirus and now this.”
“We are permanently in crisis so we are very resilient but we have been facing so much – and sometimes resilience is not enough. In the middle of this the churches have played a vital role. There is great solidarity.”
Please join us in prayer for the people of Central America.
- Lift up to God people whose lives have been devastated by the back-to-back hurricanes. Particularly pray for those who are still awaiting rescue.
- Pray for the authorities, military and all those who are responding to this developing crisis.
- Thank God for the work of our local church partners and that the church in Central America has become empowered over the last 20 years to see themselves as first responders in crisis.
You can also support the Central America response through giving.