(AFP) – Sep 5, 2007
BILWI, Nicaragua (AFP) — Rare double hurricanes lashed Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico Wednesday, killing at least 38 people as a waning Felix left a trail of destruction and Henriette gathered force.
Nicaraguan authorities said Felix's toll was likely to rise after it displaced 50,000 people and sent search-and-rescue teams fanning out along the northeast of the country, where the storm hit hardest.
"There are 38 dead," national disaster authority chief Ramon Arnesto Soza told local radio, adding that the number was expected to rise. Some 120 people who had refused to evacuate their homes were missing, he said.
"We must speed up (search) efforts," said Reynaldo Francis, governor of Nicaragua's impoverished North Atlantic Autonomous Region, the worst hit by the hurricane.
One day after it slammed ashore from the Caribbean, smashing thousands of homes, Felix lost all its punch, but the rain it dumped raised fears of floods and mudslides in neighboring Honduras.
Teams deploying along Nicaragua's coast feared they would find more death and destruction as they made their way to isolated communities whose wooden shacks offered no protection from the 260 kilometer (160 mile) per hour winds the hurricane packed when it thundered onto land.
"We are getting information of bodies floating in the water," governor Francis said in a conversation with President Daniel Ortega broadcast on national television.
Among those killed by the storm's fury was a baby who died at birth, officials said.
The storm conjured memories of the devastating Hurricane Mitch, which killed thousands and wreaked untold damage in Nicaragua and Honduras in 1998.
Many areas along Nicaragua's Caribbean coast were devastated by the storm that smashed thousands of homes, many of them made of wood and tin.
"People are out in the open, they have lost everything, children are exposed to the rain," said Mayor Nancy Enriquez, the mayor of the coastal community of Bilwi.
The worst hit was Puerto Cabezas, an impoverished city of 40,000 where officials said 90 percent of infrastructure was wrecked. Debris of houses smashed up by the storm, downed power lines and uprooted trees littered the ground.
"It is a disaster of major proportions," said Lumberto Campbell, the government representative for Nicaragua's autonomous regions along the Caribbean coast. He said aid was needed to rebuild more than 10,000 homes.
The World Food Programme gave 4.5 tons of supplies for those afflicted in Nicaragua. The Honduras government also donated aid.
Officials earlier said that because of damages to the local infrastructure, it would not be possible to bring in emergency aid by road.
"We need to set up an air bridge," said Ortega.
In Honduras, residents of Tegucigalpa heaved a sigh of relief as Felix, which weakened into a tropical depression, spared the capital. But authorities remained concerned about floods and mudslides.
Thousands of people were evacuated in the north of the country as rivers rose, threatening to burst their banks. On Wednesday morning, authorities reported 123 damaged homes and 10 landslides in Honduras.
On Wednesday morning, authorities reported 123 damaged homes and 10 landslides in Honduras.
Tuesday's landfall marked the first time on record that two Atlantic hurricanes hit land at the topmost category five in the same year, after Hurricane Dean barreled ashore in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula two weeks ago.
Hurricane Henriette meanwhile, was gathering strength over the Sea of Cortez, poised to make landfall in mainland Mexico late Wednesday.
Henriette has already churned over the country's Baja California peninsula, where thousands of residents were left without power or running water.
The outer bands of the storm late Wednesday were already being felt over the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinoloa, with winds ranging between 60 and 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour and gusts up to 150 kilometers per hour, Jesus Carachure of the national meteorological service told AFP.
The tourist resort of Los Cabos was cut off from the rest of the peninsula as floods and mudslides blocked the two roads leading to it.
Henriette left seven people dead over the weekend when it caused several mudslides along Mexico's southern Pacific coast.
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