More than 200 people in Central and South America have already died as “Eta” is on its way to Florida. Authorities warn of the strength of the storm – it could cost even more lives.

Tropical Storm “Eta” is now threatening parts of the US state of Florida. The U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami warned of heavy rains and deadly flooding in parts of the southeastern peninsula. At around 4 a.m. (CET), the center of the storm was about 37 miles east of Marathon, part of the Keys, the chain of islands at the southernmost tip of Florida. With wind speeds of 100 kilometers per hour, it moved northwest towards the mainland.

On Sunday morning, “Eta” reached the Cuban south coast. The tropical storm made landfall early Sunday morning (local time) near Punta Colorados in the central province of Sancti Spíritus, Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported. This was accompanied by heavy rainfall. The US Hurricane Center warned that “Eta” was dangerous.

Civil defense warned of flooding

Cuba’s civil defense had already announced the alert phase for western and central provinces as of Saturday afternoon, and the alert phase for other provinces. As before in Central America and Mexico, the heavy rain that “Eta” brought on the Caribbean island was a cause for concern. Precipitation is likely to increase in many places, many soils were already soaked and could hardly absorb more water and the risk of landslides increased. Civil defense warned of flooding.

“Eta” hit the coast of Nicaragua like a hurricane on Tuesday. “Eta” later weakened into a tropical storm. However, the heavy rains of recent days caused landslides and floods in many places, and it is estimated that more than 200 people have died in Central America and Mexico.

150 dead in landslides

At least 20 people died and 900 homes were damaged in the Mexican state of Chiapas. In Guatemala, which was particularly badly hit, a landslide hit a village in the center of the country. President Alejandro Giammattei counted a total of “about 150 dead” on Friday. The search for the dead has only just begun. Rescue workers found three buried victims in the village of Quejá, part of the town of San Cristóbal Verapaz, Guatemala’s National Disaster Risk Reduction Coordination Office (Conred) wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

At least 27 people died in Guatemala, 103 were missing, and nearly 200,000 people were affected by floods and landslides, according to Conred. At least 20 people died in Honduras, five in Panama and two in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Air guard brings food packages

Many of those affected have no drinking water or food and are waiting for rescue. Videos from the Guatemalan army showed dramatic rescue scenes of families on rooftops. In Honduras, soldiers and police officers took people from particularly endangered areas in speedboats and helicopters, and the Air Force brought food parcels.

The German Red Cross (DRK) helps its sister associations in Honduras and Guatemala. “The focus is now on rescue, medical care and safe housing for people,” said Christian Reuter, Secretary General of the DRK. However, rescuers were apparently unable to help all the victims of the storm quickly. Communication and access to the affected, often remote areas would be made more difficult by the destruction, Reuter said.

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