Hurricane Eta grinds inland into Nicaragua; at least 3 dead

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A man fixes the roof of a home surrounded by floodwaters brought on by Hurricane Eta in Wawa, Nicaragua, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Eta slammed into Nicaragua's Caribbean coast with potentially devastating winds Tuesday, while heavy rains thrown off by the Category 4 storm already were causing rivers to overflow across Central America. (AP Photo/Carlos Herrera)

MANAGUA – Hurricane Eta churned inland through northeast Nicaragua Tuesday night with devastating winds and rains that destroyed rooftops, caused rivers to overflow and left at least three people dead in the region.

The hurricane had sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, down from an overnight peak of 150 mph (240 kph). Even before it made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, Honduras reported the first death after a mudslide trapped a 12-year-old girl in San Pedro Sula and two miners were killed in a mudslide in Bonanza, Nicaragua.

Tuesday night, the Category 2 hurricane crawled inland from the coast, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) west-southwest of coastal Puerto Cabezas or Bilwi, and it was moving west near 6 mph (9 kph).

Landfall came hours after it had been expected. Eta's eye had hovered just offshore through the night and Tuesday morning. The unceasing winds uprooted trees and ripped roofs apart, scattering corrugated metal through the streets of Bilwi, the main coastal city in the region. The city's regional hospital abandoned its building, moving patients to a local technical school campus.

“It was an intense night for everyone in Bilwi, Waspam and the communities along the northern coast,” Yamil Zapata, local Bilwi representative of the ruling Sandinista Front, told local Channel 4 Tuesday.

Guillermo González, director of the country’s emergency management agency, said in a news conference earlier that there were reports of corrugated metal roofs flying off homes, trees, poles and power lines falling and rivers rising in the coastal area.

About 10,000 people were in shelters in Bilwi and an equal number in smaller towns across the region, he said. The area had already been lashed with strong winds and heavy rain for hours.

Inland, about 100 miles (160 kms) west of where Eta made landfall, two gold miners were killed when a mountainside unleashed tons of mud. A third miner escaped the slide and sought help.