By Gustavo Palencia and Ismael Lopez
TEGUCIGALPA, Nov 19, 2020 (Reuters) The death tolls from Hurricane Iota, now a tropical storm, reached 24 Wednesday as flash floods in areas already waterlogged with rain, forced tens of thousands across Central America to flee their homes.
Most of the dead and missing are from Nicaragua which suffered the brunt of Iota.
The majority of the victims are in Nicaragua, where authorities say a mother and her four children were swept away by a river that overflowed its banks, while a landslide in the north of the country killed at least eight people, with many more missing.
In Honduras, five members of a family, including three children, were buried alive after a landslide swept away their home in the western department of Ocotepeque near the border with El Salvador and Guatemala, according to police.
Two deaths have been confirmed in Panama and one in El Salvador.
In Colombia, authorities say two people died when the storm battered the islands of the country’s Caribbean archipelago near the coast of Central America, bringing the storm’s total death toll to at least 26 people.
Some 160,000 Nicaraguans and 70,000 Hondurans have been forced to flee to shelters.
Iota has, now however, largely dissipated over El Salvador but authorities across Nicaragua and Honduras are still battling to cope with the devastating flooding the weather front had left behind in the deeply impoverished region.
The strongest storm on record ever to hit Nicaragua, Iota struck the coast late on Monday, unleashing Category 5 magnitude winds and inundating villages still reeling from the impact two weeks ago of Eta, another major hurricane.
Despite the dissolution of Iota, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the storm’s remnants could trigger more flooding and mudslides across Central America through Thursday.
The remnants of Iota were drifting west toward the Pacific Ocean, according to the NHC.
(Reporting by Wilmer Lopez in Puerto Cabezas, Ismael Lopez in Mexico City, Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City, Nelson Renteria in San Salvador; Writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Aurora Ellis)