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South Florida Expats, Central America Aid Workers Bracing For The Worst From Monster Hurricane Iota

National Hurricane Center tracking at 4 p.m. Monday showed Hurricane Iota about to strike the north Nicaraguan coast as a major storm with winds of more than 150 mph.

Hurricane Iota will hit Nicaragua and Honduras Monday night as a Category 5 storm — raising the specter of catastrophic Hurricane Mitch two decades ago.

Tropical Storm Eta hit Nicaragua and Honduras just about two weeks ago. Now, Hurricane Iota threatens to batter those countries as a monster Category 5 storm Monday night and Tuesday.

The National Hurricane Center expects Iota to bring disastrous flooding and mudslides to Nicaragua. Residents, as well as expats in South Florida, and aid workers in Central America told WLRN they're bracing for the worst. The storm's impact will likely be made worse by the damage, including downed bridges across Honduras, and ground saturation already left by Eta.

Francisco Larios, a Nicaraguan-American professor at Miami Dade College and leader of the nonprofit Paz Nicaragua Foundation, said he fears the indigenous and rural communities of northern Nicaragua will not be prepared.

“These are very impoverished communities that will really suffer a lot without help from the central government, that is a dictatorship that has pretty much abandoned them to their own fate," Larios said.

Nicaragua's authoritarian regime has been criticized in the past for neglecting those communities.

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In Honduras, Iota is headed for the capital, Tegucigalpa. Residents there worry its winds and rain could be as destructive as Hurricane Mitch, which devastated Honduras as well as Nicaragua 22 years ago.

“In Tegucigalpa, 40 to 60 percent of the area and the population is in high vulnerability," said Maite Matheu, the Tegucigalpa-based Honduras director for the international aid nonprofit CARE.

"We have a lot of threats of mudslides [made worse by] the high concentration of people in very poor neighborhoods in the hillsides.”

Matheu says Eta already left more than 150,000 Hondurans displaced. That means there will be little shelter capacity left for Iota victims.

Alejandra Marquez Janse is a fall intern at WLRN.
Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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