Hurricane Iota has brought torrential rains and strong winds to Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, two weeks after another devastating storm hit.
Iota made landfall as a category four storm near the town of Puerto Cabezas, where patients had to be evacuated from a makeshift hospital after its roof was ripped off.
Residents are in shelters, and there are fears of food shortages.
Iota has weakened and Honduras is expected to be hit on November 17.
According to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), Iota was now a category two storm, but warned it could bring life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic winds, flash flooding and landslides.
The hurricane struck Nicaragua on November 16 with sustained winds of nearly 155mph , the NHC said. It strengthened at sea to a category five storm but it weakened as it made landfall.
In Puerto Cabezas, also known as Bilwi, Iota damaged wooden homes, flooded streets and cut off electricity. Residents said the wind ripped away the roofs of houses “like they were made of cardboard”.
There were no immediate reports of casualties. Nicaraguan officials said around 40,000 people had been evacuated from areas in the storm’s path.
“[Iota] is the strongest hurricane that has touched Nicaraguan soil since records began,” said Marcio Baca, director of the Nicaraguan Institute of Earth Studies.
Hurricane Iota is forecast to move inland across the country before hitting southern Honduras. The effect of the rains could be particularly devastating in areas already drenched by Hurricane Eta. Iota made landfall just 15 miles south of where Eta hit on November 3.
In Honduras, officials said at least 50,000 people had been removed from high-risk areas. Speaking at a news conference on November 16, President Juan Orlando Hernández warned: “What’s drawing closer is a bomb.”
Before reaching Central America the storm moved past the Colombian island of Providencia in the Caribbean, cutting off electricity and killing at least one person, officials said.
Colombian President Iván Duque said 98% of the infrastructure in Providencia, home to around 5,000 people, had been damaged.
Iota is the strongest Atlantic hurricane of the year and only the second November hurricane to reach category five – the last was in 1932.