Honduran leader pleads for help as storm death toll rises

TEGUCIGALPA (Honduras) • The authorities in Central America have recovered more bodies from landslides triggered by Hurricane Iota, which battered the impoverished region this week, the second deadly storm to roar through this month.

The number of reported deaths on Thursday rose to more than 40 across Central America and Colombia, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue workers reach isolated communities. Most of the deaths occurred in Nicaragua and Honduras.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez issued an urgent plea for international help.

“We are in a situation of great calamity and we need the world to help us rebuild our country,” he told a news conference.

The strongest storm on record to hit Nicaragua, Iota struck the coast late on Monday as a Category 4 hurricane. It inundated low-lying areas still reeling from the impact two weeks ago of Eta – another major hurricane that killed dozens of people in the region.

The destruction caused by the unprecedented 2020 hurricane season in Central America could spur migration to the United States from a region already trying to cope with an economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus lockdowns, aid officials say.

More details from the toll that Iota inflicted came to light on Thursday. The Honduran authorities said eight members of two families, including four children, were killed when a landslide buried their homes in a village in a mountainous region populated by indigenous Lencas near the border with El Salvador. Those deaths raised the Honduras toll to 14.

In Nicaragua, at least 21 people have been confirmed dead.

While Iota largely dissipated over El Salvador on Wednesday, the authorities struggled to cope with the fallout from days of heavy rain. Numerous villages from northern Colombia to southern Mexico saw record rainfall swell rivers and trigger mudslides.