TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Hurricane Iota has battered Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast and flooded some stretches of neighboring Honduras that were still under water from Hurricane Eta two weeks earlier.
The extent of the damage was unclear because much of the affected region was without electricity and phone and internet service, and strong winds hampered radio transmissions.
Officials reported at least four deaths around the region, and said other people were unaccounted for.
Aid agencies struggled to reach their local contacts, and the government said in a statement that at least 35 towns in the east and north had no phone service. Nicaragua’s telecommunications ministry said phone and broadband provider Columbus Networks was offline because of flooding in Bilwi.
Preliminary reports from the coast included toppled trees and electric poles and roofs stripped from homes and businesses, said Guillermo González, director of Nicaragua’s emergency management agency.
More than 40,000 people were in shelters.
Iota had intensified into a Category 5 storm, but it weakened as it neared the coast and made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (250 kph) early Tuesday morning. The system came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane about 30 miles (45 kilometers) south of the Nicaraguan city of Puerto Cabezas, also known as Bilwi. That was just 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of where Hurricane Eta made landfall Nov. 3, also as a Category 4 storm.
By Tuesday night, Iota had diminished to a tropical storm and was moving inland over northern Nicaragua and southern Honduras. It had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and was spinning westward at 12 mph (19 kph).