Storm Eta lashes Nicaragua with rain, sparking deadly mudslides

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Scenes from Hurricane Willa Mexico
The sun sets, as Hurricane Willa makes landfall, in Mazatlan, Mexico

Tropical Storm Eta is spinning through northern Nicaragua after lashing the country’s Caribbean coast for much of the past day, with floodwater isolating already remote communities and setting off deadly landslides that killed at least three people.

The storm has weakened from the Category 4 hurricane that battered the coast, but it is moving so slowly and dumping so much rain that much of Central America is on high alert.

On Wednesday morning, Eta had sustained winds of 45mph and was 125 miles north-north-east of Managua, moving westward at 7mph.

The long-term forecast shows the storm taking a turn over Central America and then reforming in the Caribbean, possibly reaching Cuba on Sunday and Florida on Monday.

Eta came ashore on Tuesday afternoon south of Puerto Cabezas, also know as Bilwi, after stalling just off the coast for hours.

The city of about 60,000 had been without power since Monday evening. Corrugated metal roofing and uprooted trees were scattered through its streets, and 20,000 of residents were in shelters.

About 100 miles west of where Eta made landfall, two gold miners were killed when a mountainside unleashed tons of mud. A third miner escaped the slide and sought help.

One body was recovered before rescuers had to suspend recovery efforts due to nightfall and there were fears that more slides could occur as the rain continued, said Cesar Malespin of Bonanza Fire Department.

The storm also drenched neighbouring Honduras, and the country reported its first storm-related death on Tuesday. A 12-year-old girl died in a mudslide in San Pedro Sula, the main population centre in northern Honduras, said Marvin Aparicio of the emergency management agency.

In Honduras, at least 559 people had to move to shelters or go to relatives’ homes to escape flooding, he said, and at least 25 people had been rescued. His agency reported at least six rivers causing significant flooding.

Forecasters said central and northern Nicaragua and much of Honduras could get 15in to 25in of rain, with 35in in isolated areas. Heavy rain is also likely in eastern Guatemala, southern Belize and Jamaica.

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