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Hurricane Eta forces evacuations in Central America

Young mother Gilma holds her son Edin after their home in Guatemala was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Eta. Gilma is the sister of sponsored youth Minor, not pictured.

Many families in Unbound communities in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador evacuated to shelters in the wake of Hurricane Eta, which made landfall in Nicaragua on Tuesday. While necessary, the close quarters in the evacuation centers inevitably increase the risk of these families to COVID-19 and will add to their challenges as they strive to recover from Eta.

Torrential rains fell as the hurricane, later downgraded to a tropical storm, moved through the region. The rains caused major flooding and mudslides in several areas served by Unbound. At this time there are no reports of injuries among sponsored families.

“Tropical storm Eta is leaving lots of damage behind in the northeast region,” Mynor Ramirez, regional coordinator for Unbound in northeast Guatemala, said. “The rain continues, especially in the departments (states) of Izabal, Alta-Verapaz and Chiquimula, areas in which Unbound has sponsored members and their families.”

The city of Camotán in southeastern Guatemala was cut off from the outside world when flooding caused a bridge over the Jupilingo River to wash out. The Jupilingo flows from neighboring Honduras.
The city of Camotán in southeastern Guatemala was cut off from the outside world when flooding caused a bridge over the Jupilingo River to wash out. The Jupilingo flows from neighboring Honduras.

In some places, swollen rivers made bridges impassable and essentially isolated communities. Combined with disruptions in cell phone service and electrical power, this made it impossible for Unbound staff to check on many sponsored members and their families as of Friday morning.

“The Unbound (local) coordinators are doing everything they can to obtain more information from the [sponsored] families, but the internet signal is also down,” Unbound Honduras staff member Xiomara Muñoz said. “There is much lost,” Xiomara added, referring to the overall impact of the storm."

Eta was unusually slow moving. It entered Nicaragua at its Caribbean coast late on Nov. 3 and moved slowly northwest into Honduras and Guatemala before veering east to Belize and back to sea early Friday morning. At last report, it had the potential for picking up speed and becoming a hurricane again as it heads toward Cuba and southern Florida.

What you can do

  • Make sure your contact information is updated. In times of natural disaster, we notify sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously impacted, so keeping your information updated is important.
  • Pray. The Unbound community holds all those affected and those assisting with relief efforts in our thoughts and prayers.
  • Donate to Disaster Response. Unbound’s Disaster Response fund provides assistance to families in the aftermath of events like earthquakes, severe storms, fires and health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disaster Response