At least 22 dead in Central America after Hurricane Iota as rescue crews work through flooding and debris

By Jimena Tavel, Jacqueline Charles and Syra Ortiz-Blanes, Miami Herald on

Published in Weather News

There is no social distancing or protective gear to limit exposure to the novel coronavirus. Five to six families are crammed in university classrooms that only fit 30 students.

In particular, Watson said, the neighborhoods in Puerto Cabeza closest to the docks and the beaches were most vulnerable to the storm's power: He saw collapsed houses, century-old fallen trees, and people scouring the streets for essentials.

"People are looking everywhere for nails, looking for little things like that, some looking for food," he said.

He criticized some local businesses for price gouging in a time of need, particularly for building supplies.

"They are taking advantage of the need of the crisis," Watson said. "A yard of plastics that cost 30 cordobas is now selling at 85 (cordobas.) Almost three dollars a yard that previously cost less than a dollar."

The damage in the indigenous communities south of the city, where both Eta and Iota made landfall, he said, is "very bad."


The communities of Haulover and Wauhta ended up "at the bottom of a lagoon." In the Miskito Cays, a low-lying archipelago where people live from fishing, Watson painted a picture of complete devastation.

"There were more than 300 or 400 little houses where people came to work. Everything went to the sea," he said.

Watson was regional governor when Hurricane Felix struck the region in 2007. He believes that experiencing the massive storm 13 years ago helped residents of the indigenous region prepare better for Eta and Iota. Some people evacuated on their own and hunkered down with family in advance of the storm.

Still, he added, the losses from the back-to-back major hurricanes are larger than those of the 2007 storm, and he worries Puerto Cabezas and the communities nearby won't receive the help they need as quickly as they should because the damage is so widespread.

"I don't really know how the issue is going, but I see it as very difficult that the government has the capacity to attend to" the crisis he said.

(c)2020 Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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