Iota's devastation comes into focus in storm-weary Nicaragua

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Men wade through a street flooded after the passing of Hurricane Iota in La Lima, Honduras, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. Iota flooded stretches of Honduras still underwater from Hurricane Eta, after it hit Nicaragua Monday evening as a Category 4 hurricane and weakened as it moved across Central America, dissipating over El Salvador early Wednesday. (AP Photo/Delmer Martinez)

TEGUCIGALPA – MACIZO DE PEÑThe devastation caused by Hurricane Iota became clearer Wednesday as images emerged showing piles of wind-tossed lumber that used to be homes and concrete walls that were pounded into pieces by the second Category 4 storm to blast Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast in two weeks.

Nicaragua Vice President and first lady Rosario Murillo on Wednesday raised the nation's death toll to 16. The victims were spread across the country, swept away by swollen rivers or buried in landslides.

Rescuers searched at the site of a landslide in northern Nicaragua, where the local government confirmed four deaths and neighbors spoke of at least 16. A short video from the nation's emergency management agency showed a massive bowl-shaped mountainside shrouded in clouds that collapsed. Police blocked media access to the site on the Macizo de Peñas Blancas, a mountain in Matagalpa province, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Managua.

There were seven confirmed dead at the mountain, and the search continued, Murillo said.

Miguel Rodríguez, who works on a ranch next to the site, said he saw at least seven bodies.

“The landslide came with all the dirt, and it became like a river going down. It took all of the little houses that were there. There were five homes, five families,” Rodríguez said.

One home was spared on the other side of the slide. But it was in a precarious position, and rescuers were trying to reach it, he said.

Nicaragua’s army said it was sending 100 rescuers to the site. Access was complicated by downed trees blocking roads.