Eta hits Cuba, after deaths in Guatemala

SONIA PEREZ D.
·2-min read

A strengthened Tropical Storm Eta has made landfall on Cuba and has its sights set on the southern tip of Florida, after leaving dozens dead and over 100 missing in Central America, where it hit as a hurricane.

Eta breached Cuba even as searchers in Guatemala were digging for people believed buried by a massive, rain-fuelled landslide. Authorities say 15 people are confirmed dead and at least 109 are missing in Guatemala, many of them in the landslide in San Cristobal Verapaz.

The US National Hurricane Centre issued tropical storm warnings for southern Florida and the Florida Keys, and warnings were issued for central Cuba; parts of southern Florida and the Keys were even put under a hurricane watch.

The Hurricane Centre said Eta was located about 145 kilometres west of Camaguey, Cuba, on Sunday morning and was moving northeast with winds of 100 km per hour. The system was expected to approach the Florida Keys and south Florida late Sunday or Monday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for eight counties at the end of the state as Eta approached, urging residents to stock up on supplies. South Florida started emptying ports and a small number of shelters opened in Miami and the Florida Keys for residents in mobile homes and low lying areas.

Eta was formerly a Category 4 hurricane, and authorities from Panama to Mexico were still surveying the damages following days of torrential rains during the week.

In Guatemala, search teams first had to overcome multiple landslides and deep mud just to reach the site where officials have estimated some 150 homes were devastated.

In the worst-hit village, Queja, at least five bodies have been pulled from the mud. The Indigenous community of about 1,200 residents consisted of simple homes of wood and tin roofs clinging to the mountainside.

Rescue workers used a helicopter to evacuate survivor Emilio Caal, who said he lost as many as 40 family members and relatives.

In southern Mexico, across the border from Guatemala, 20 people died as heavy rains attributed to Eta caused mudslides and swelled streams and rivers, according to Chiapas state civil defence official Elias Morales Rodriguez.

The worst incident in Mexico occurred in the mountain township of Chenalho, where 10 people were swept away by a rain-swollen stream; their bodies were later found downstream.