Another week of heavy rains caused by Tropical Storm “Matthew” has left Nicaragua and the rest of water-logged northern Central America in a soggy mess.
The tropical storm, which dumped continuous rain on the region all last weekend and into this week, had – at press time – already claimed two lives in El Salvador, two lives in Nicaragua and five in Honduras. Thousands of homes have been flooded, damaged or destroyed, and some 10,000 people were evacuated across the region.
In Nicaragua, where the rains have been falling relentlessly for nearly two months – prompting President Daniel Ortega to declare a national emergency last weekend – dozens of communities from Managua and Granada and Tipitapa to Estelí and the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) have been flooded or cutoff from the rest of the country by washed out roads and bridges.
The communities bordering Nicaragua’s two largest lakes – Xolotlán and Cocibolca – have been inundated as the waters rise and swell beyond their natural boundaries. Dozens of communities, totaling thousands of people, have been evacuated, both preventively and due to flood damage.
Lake Xolotlán this week rose to a record-setting height of 42.15 millimeters above sea level, surpassing the watermark set in 1998 during Hurricane Mitch – one of the worst natural disasters to hit the region in decades.
The Nicaraguan government reported that several families in the shanty community of La Bocana initially resisted evacuation efforts. Fearful of losing their possessions, the families attempted to ride out the storm and flooding in their homes.
But after three days of living in knee-deep water inside their homes, many individuals became sick with respiratory problems and fungal infections on their feet, and were forced to make their way to the shelters this week.
With more than a month left to go in the rain
y season, and with some of the hardest rains yet to come, there is a growing anxiety in Nicaragua about what’s going to happen next. The government has yet to calculate the total damage caused to roads, bridges and other infrastructure, and those living in shelters don’t know what awaits them at home once the flood waters recede.