Tropical Storm Iota barrels toward Central America as mudslide buries 10 in Guatemala

A surfer times the waves before jumping off the jetty into the surf before the arrival of Tropical Storm Eta in Bradenton Beach, Florida, U.S. November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – As Tropical Storm Iota barrels toward Central America, eight people were killed or reported missing in a landslide in Guatemala, authorities said on Saturday, in the latest disaster triggered by this year’s unprecedented hurricane season.

Iota is expected to intensify to hurricane strength or just short of it by the time it smashes into the jungles of the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras on Monday, even as Central America is still recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Eta two weeks ago.

Eta sparked floods and mudslides that killed scores of people across a huge swath of terrain stretching from Panama to southern Mexico. No area was harder hit than the central Guatemalan region of Alta Verapaz, where a mountain partly collapsed onto the village of Queja, killing and burying alive dozens of residents.

Early on Saturday morning, Guatemalan authorities said a mudslide buried 10 people in the state of Chiquimula near the border with Honduras. Emergency workers have rescued two people and recovered three corpses so far, with another five people still missing.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) is warning Iota could unleash “life threatening” flash flooding and mudslides across northern Colombia and Central America as early as Monday. It is expected to pack maximum winds of 110 mph (177 km) as it approaches landfall.

At 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) Iota was about 495 miles (797 km) east-southeast from the Nicaraguan-Honduran coast, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph). It was moving 5 mph (8 kph) in a west-southwest direction.

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