GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - U.N. and international aid agencies are gearing up to mount a massive relief operation for Central American countries battered by Hurricane Eta, one of the fiercest storms seen in decades.
Eta has lost much of its power as it heads toward the southern state of Florida in the United States. However, Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says the storm remains a threatening and potent force.
“It continues to cause rains throughout much of Central America. It is causing rising rivers. It causes high risk of flooding and landslides in parts of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. U.N. teams and humanitarian partners are working with national authorities as well……to prepare response efforts and support assessments and other response mechanisms when Eta clears the area.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says the situation in Honduras is especially critical. It reports flooding has caused widespread damage to homes and other infrastructure. It says an estimated 400,000 people have been directly affected by the storm, a figure that could double in the coming days.
Honduran authorities have issued a red alert, as have the governments of Nicaragua and Guatemala. The Red Cross has released half a million dollars from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to bolster relief efforts in Nicaragua. It says it expects to launch emergency appeals soon for Honduras and Nicaragua.
Meanwhile, the World Food Program had pre-positioned 80 metric tons of food in Bilwi in the Autonomous Region of the Northern Caribbean in Nicaragua at the request of the government. WFP spokesman, Tomson Phiri says his agency also is providing telecommunications support in areas affected by Hurricane Eta.
“Thanks to that early preparedness, we have managed to support the national government and local authorities to respond to the affected areas, at least within the first 24 hours after the disaster. We continue to provide support. We are in touch with the government and we will make sure that those in need will receive assistance as soon as possible.”
Weather forecasters warn Eta remains a danger and is expected to cause more life-threatening floods in parts of Central America.