HAVANA (AP) – A intensifying tropical storm Eta that cut across Cuba on Sunday and targeted the southern tip of Florida where officials prepared for a storm that could hit hurricane strength, after dozens of deaths and over in Mexico and central 100 missing people were left behind America.
The US National Hurricane Center in Miami issued hurricane and storm surge warnings for the Keys from Ocean Reef to Dry Tortugas, including Florida Bay. The storm is expected to hit this area on Sunday evening or early Monday.
Florida officials shut down beaches, harbors and COVID test sites, shut down public transportation and urged residents to stay off the road. Several accommodations for mobile home residents and lower-lying areas have opened in Miami and the Florida Keys.
Broward County also closed personal school on Monday, and Miami appeared ready to do the same.
Eta had maximum sustained winds of 100 km / h on Sunday lunchtime and was north of Cuba, about 235 kilometers southeast of Marathon, Florida, and 275 kilometers southeast of Miami. It was moving north-northwest at 28 km / h.
The storm swelled rivers and flooded coastal areas in Cuba, where 25,000 had been evacuated. However, there were no reports of deaths.
Eta hit Cuba when the seekers in Guatemala were still looking for people believed to have been rain-fueled from a massive landslide. Authorities on Sunday increased the death toll from 15 to 27, finding that more than 100 were missing in Guatemala, many of them in the San Cristobal Verapaz landslide.
Around 60,000 people had been evacuated in Guatemala.
At least 20 people have also been reported dead in southern Mexico, and local officials in Honduras reported 21, although the national disaster agency had only confirmed eight.
Pope Francis spoke on Sunday about the people of Central America who were “hit by a violent hurricane that caused many victims and great damage, which has also worsened by the already difficult situation due to the pandemic”. In a conversation with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Francis prayed: “The Lord welcomes the dead, comforts their families, and supports those who have tried and all who do their best to help them.”
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for eight counties at the end of the state on Saturday as Eta approached and urged residents to stock up on supplies. South Florida began emptying ports and a small number of shelters opened in Miami and the Florida Keys for mobile home residents and lower-lying areas.
Miami-Dade County declared a state of emergency Friday night and also warned that a flood watch would be in effect until Tuesday night.
Further south in the Keys, officials closely monitored the storm but had no plans to evacuate tourists or residents. They urged residents to secure their boats and encouraged visitors to change plans until Eta was over.
Eta initially hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane, and authorities from Panama to Mexico are still investigating the damage after days of heavy rainfall during the week.
In Guatemala, search teams first had to negotiate several landslides and deep mud to reach the location, where officials estimate that around 150 houses had been destroyed.
In the worst affected village of Quejá, at least five bodies were pulled from the mud. The indigenous community with around 1,200 inhabitants consisted of simple houses with wooden and tin roofs that clung to the mountainside.
Rescue workers evacuated the survivor Emilio Caal, who had lost up to 40 family members and relatives, by helicopter. Caal, 65, sustained a shoulder injury when the landslide hurled stones, trees and earth at the house where he was going to sit for lunch with his wife and grandchildren. Caal said he was blown up several meters by the force of the slide and none of the others could get out.
“My wife is dead, my grandchildren are dead,” said Caal from a nearby hospital.
In neighboring Honduras, 68-year-old María Elena Mejía Guadron died when the brown water of the Chamelecon River flowed into the Planeta district of San Pedro Sula before Thursday morning.
In southern Mexico, across the border with Guatemala, 20 people died when heavy rains attributed to Eta caused mudslides and swelled streams and rivers, according to Elías Morales Rodríguez, civil protection officer for Chiapas State.
The worst incident in Mexico occurred in the mountain community of Chenalho, where 10 people were swept away by a rain-swollen stream. Their bodies were later found downstream.
The floods in neighboring Tabasco were so severe that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador broke off a trip to western Mexico and flew to Tabasco, his home state, to oversee the relief efforts.
The arrival of Hurricane Eta in northeast Nicaragua on Tuesday was followed by days of soaked rain as it crawled to shore. Its slow, meandering path north through Honduras pushed rivers over their banks.
Contributors to this report were associate press writers Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Marlon González in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Frances D’Emilio in Rome, Italy.