Things That Matter

Tropical Storm Leaves At Least 20 Dead In El Salvador And Now Threatens The U.S. Gulf Coast

The 2020 Hurricane season is off to a very strong start – in fact, it’s a record breaking one. The season officially started on June 1st, however, we’re only on June 3rd and there have already been three named storms. Even before the season got started, officials were warning of an above average season and it seems their predictions are playing out.

Tropical Storm Amanda killed at least 20 people when it struck El Salvador, unleashing flooding and landslides.

After making landfall in El Salvador, Tropical Storm Amanda has been blamed for at least 20 deaths in the country. Officials there say that more than 7,000 people have been taken into shelters as the country attempts to recover from the devastating effects.

Torrential rains and strong winds destroyed hundreds of homes and left highways and roads out of service, stranding many in very dangerous situations.

Carolina Recinos, a senior aide to President Nayib Bukele, said the storm had dumped the equivalent of “almost 10 percent” of the annual rainfall on the country in a relatively short span of time.

Bukele declared a 15-day state of emergency to cope with the effects of Amanda, which he estimated to have caused $200 million in damage.

“We’ve never experienced this,” Maria Torres, whose house was damaged, told the Associated Press news agency. “The rain was so strong and suddenly, the water entered the homes, and we just saw how they fell.”

The storm came as the country of some 6.6 million people is grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Credit: @Minerva_Juarez / Twitter

To date, El Salvador has reported 2,582 confirmed Covid-19 infections and 46 related deaths. It’s not been as hard hit as many other Latin American countries, but experts agree that the country is poorly equipped to handle any further strain.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented situation: one top-level emergency on top of another serious one,” said San Salvador Mayor Ernesto Muyshondt.

The country had already instituted some of the most strict lockdown measures across the region. Even a trip to the market is heavily regulated – you’re only allowed access depending on the numbers in your identity documents, and residents aren’t allowed to cross municipal boundaries, even to buy food or medicine.

The storm also lashed other countries across Central America.

Credit: @Minerva_Juarez / Twitter

Both Guatemala and Honduras were also badly hit by the storm. In Honduras, four were left dead after they were swept away by rising flood waters. Meanwhile, several communities were left buried under feed of mud and debris and mudslides happened across the country.

Two people were also killed and two injured in Guatemala, where authorities reported 500 homes damaged.

After weakening, the storm has now reformed as Tropical Storm Cristobal and could pose a risk to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Credit: NOAA

Tropical Storm Amanda weakened after impacting Central America and then entered the Gulf of Mexico, where it’s since reorganized into a new Tropical Storm – this time named Cristobal. This marks the first time in history that there have been three named storms so early in the hurricane season. Typically, the third named storm does not brew until way later in the season, occurring on average around Aug. 13

The weather disturbance is expected to move through the Gulf of Mexico in the coming days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, and is likely to severely impact the Mexican coastline in the coming days.

The storm is expected to take a northward turn, and it could gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico prior to reaching the southern United States coastline.

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Two Weeks Ago He Lost His Home To Hurricane Eta And Now Hurricane Iota Threatens His Entire Community

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Two Weeks Ago He Lost His Home To Hurricane Eta And Now Hurricane Iota Threatens His Entire Community

WENDELL ESCOTO/AFP via Getty Images

Once again, the year 2020 is delivering a shocker but this time it‘s in the form of devastation caused by a record-breaking hurricane season. So far, the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season, which is set to end on Nov. 30, has had 30 named storms, 13 of them hurricanes. And six of those hurricanes were considered “major”— Eta and Iota among them — meaning they were Category 3 or higher.

Meteorologists have been forced to use the Greek alphabet to name the new systems after having exhausted the 21-name list that is prepared for each hurricane season. The last time the Greek alphabet was used was in 2005, when there were 28 storms strong enough to be named.

Now, as Hurricane Iota ravages Central America, it’s becoming clear that an imminent humanitarian catastrophe is setting up across the region.

Hurricane Iota is ravaging Central America just two weeks after communities there were hit by Hurricane Eta.

Late on Monday, Hurricane Iota made landfall as a powerful and “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane. Aside form the catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surge, the hurricane is impacting already devastated communities recently hit by Hurricane Eta.

People across Central America will feel the impacts of this record breaking storm, which is expected to produce up to 30 inches of rain in some areas of Nicaragua and Honduras through Friday. The intense rainfall could lead to significant flash flooding and mudslides in higher elevations, the hurricane center said.

Dozens of Indigenous communities were evacuated throughout the weekend in Nicaragua and Honduras, where the military shared pictures on Twitter of soldiers helping people out of stilted wooden homes and carrying them to safety. One of the soldiers stood in knee deep water, holding a resident’s pink backpack in the same arm as his service weapon.

The forecast, at least, offers some hope for those in Iota’s path. The National Hurricane Center expects the storm to rapidly weaken over the next 36 hours as it moves toward El Salvador across the mountainous terrain of inland Nicaragua and Honduras.

Honduras was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Eta.

Central America is still reeling from Hurricane Eta, which struck less than two weeks ago and made landfall about 15 miles from where Iota did. Aid workers are still struggling to reach communities cut off by washed-out bridges, downed trees and flooded roads.

According to the Red Cross, more than 3.6 million people across the region have been affected by the storms.

Antonio Herrera told Mitú in an interview that his modest home had already been reduced to rubble by Eta. Herrera and his daughter were staying in an improvised shelter but it’s directly in the path of Hurricane Iota. A GoFundMe has been setup to help Herrera and his family recover from the devastation wrought by both hurricanes.

“This Hurricane Iota is a monster,” he said. “After Eta and the damaged it caused, I’m afraid for all of us.”

Herrera added that even without a disaster devastating the region, Honduras is a country where half the population doesn’t have enough food to eat. And now, because of Hurricane Eta, Herrera counts himself among that group of Hondurans.

He adds that, “Honduras is a challenging place just to make sure that the everyday needs are met. And of course, all of this happening during a global pandemic — no possibility of social distancing, obviously, in those sheltering situations.”

Many Central American leaders are blaming climate change for the disasters and are seeking international aid.

Credit: Josue Decavele/Getty Images

As the region is pummeled by storm after storm, the leaders of Honduras and Guatemala have called for in increase in international funding to help combat the effects of climate change – which are having an outsized impact on the region.

“Central America is not the producer of this climate change situation,” the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, said at a news conference. “Instead, we are the most affected.”

President Orlando has called on the United Nations to declare Central America as the region most affected by climate change worldwide.

“Hunger, poverty and destruction do not have years to wait,” said Alejandro Giammattei, the Guatemalan leader. “If we don’t want to see hordes of Central Americans looking to go to countries with a better quality of life, we have to create walls of prosperity in Central America.”

Disclaimer: The author of this story has a personal connection with Antonio Herrera, a victim of these storms in Honduras mentioned in this story. The GoFundMe for Herrera was created before this story was written but was included as many GoFundMe fundraisers are when relevant.

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Uplifting News: Mexican Man Used His Home to Shelter 300 Dogs From Hurricane Delta

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Uplifting News: Mexican Man Used His Home to Shelter 300 Dogs From Hurricane Delta

Photo: Tierra de Animales/Facebook

In some uplifting news, a Mexican man has gone viral for housing stray dogs in need of shelter before Hurricane Delta hit the Yucatan peninsula in early October. Ricardo Pimentel of Cancun, Mexico, wrote on Facebook that he had boarded up his home’s windows and was currently housing 300 rescue dogs before the storm hit.

As background, Hurricane Delta touched down in Cozumel and Cancun and was reported to have winds up to 110 mph. The storm caused power outages, fallen trees, and the destruction of buildings and businesses. Luckily, Pimentel decided to get creative when it came to protecting his helpless four-legged friends from the ravages of the outdoors.

Photo: tierradeanimales/Instagram

Pimentel already owns an animal sanctuary called Tierra de Animales, but he decided to open up his home to the homeless dogs. Naturally, he need all the help he could get to take care of the canine creatures. He took to his Facebook page to ask for donations.

“If I lived alone or nothing else with about 10 or 20 dogs, I would not worry much,” wrote Pimentel on his Facebook page. “But here are hundreds of animals and we can not afford to not have enough food stored.” According to Pimentel, he was worried about there being food shortages at the grocery stores in the aftermath of the unpredictable storm.

The post was accompanied by a a jaw-dropping photo of Pimentel surrounded by a sea of dogs packed into his home. The call-to-action quickly took off and Pimentel was soon receiving thousands of dollars in donations.

At first, Pimentel was distracted by the storm and wasn’t initially aware of how deeply he touched people. When he finally saw how people had rallied to support him and his sanctuary, he was humbled.

Photo: Tierra de Animales/Facebook

“Your support at this time has been invaluable, we deeply appreciate all your messages, calls, and shows of affection,” he wrote on Facebook. “Thank you on behalf of all the animals in the sanctuary!”

According to Pimentel, many of the dogs he’s rescued on his sanctuary have been saved from dog-fighting rings and abusive homes where they’ve been badly beaten. He founded Tierra de Animales around 20 years ago as a place where dogs and other animals (including cats, bunnies, and sheep) can be safe and live a good life.

He says that his animals have been adopted by homes in Mexico, Canada and the United States. He hopes that the attention that the rescue dogs got from his viral post will encourage people to adopt them.

“We would like to think that thanks to all this attention, somebody would like to be part of the story and say: ‘I adopted a dog saved from that famous Hurricane Delta,” he told The Associated Press.

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