Iota strengthens to Category 5, heads to Nicaragua

Nicaraguan officials evacuated residents over the weekend – bracing for a direct hit from Hurricane Iota - which strengthened to a category 5 and is forecast to make landfall in northeastern Nicaragua on Monday night. Iota – which is the first Category 5 storm in this 2020 Atlantic hurricane season - was packing maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour and was expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge, and extreme rainfall to Central America, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Authorities are warning that Hurricane Iota could exacerbate the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Eta, which slammed into the region two weeks ago, causing flooding and mudslides that killed scores of people from Panama to southern Mexico. In Colombia, this local resident lost a family member from a landslide: (Local resident John Jairo Zapata saying:) "I have a niece who was buried (by landslide). She was trapped in the mud with two little children." The unprecedented 2020 hurricane season comes, as Central America is facing an economic crisis linked to the pandemic, with experts warning the compounding hardship could fuel a new round of migration from the region.