Iota strengthens into 13th hurricane of 2020

A screenshot from a video posted online shows rescuers removing the body of a child from the Chiquimula.mudslide debris. SCREENSHOT: TWITTER

MIAMI/GUATEMALA CITY (REUTERS) - Iota has strengthened into the 13th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and is expected to become a major hurricane as it approaches Central America, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said on Sunday (Nov 15).

"Reconnaissance aircraft finds Iota has strengthened into the thirteenth hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season," NHC said.

Iota is about 475km east of Isla De Providencia Colombia with maximum sustained winds 120kph.

Earlier, the tropical storm barreled towards Central America, eight people were killed or reported missing in a landslide in Guatemala, authorities said on Saturday in the latest disaster triggered by this year's unprecedented hurricane season.

Iota was expected to intensify to hurricane strength by the time it smashes into the jungles of the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras on Monday, even as Central America is still recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Eta two weeks ago.

Eta sparked floods and mudslides that killed scores of people across a huge swath of terrain stretching from Panama to southern Mexico.

No area was harder hit than the central Guatemalan region of Alta Verapaz, where a mountain partly collapsed onto the village of Queja, killing and burying alive dozens of residents.

Early on Saturday morning, Guatemalan authorities said a mudslide buried 10 people in the state of Chiquimula near the border with Honduras.

Emergency workers have rescued two people and recovered three corpses so far, with another five people still missing.

The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) is warning Iota could unleash "life threatening" flash flooding and mudslides across northern Colombia and Central America as early as Monday.

It is expected to pack maximum winds of 177km as it approaches landfall.

At 10am EST (11pm Singapore time) Iota was about 797km east-southeast from the Nicaraguan-Honduran coast, with maximum sustained winds of 64kmh.

It was moving 8kmh in a west-southwest direction.

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