Hurricane Beta Brings Flooding to Central America

10-31-05 - The remnants of Hurricane Beta dropped heavy rain over parts of Central America on Monday, prompting forecasters to warn of deadly landslides and flooding as the storm began to dissipate.

No injuries or deaths were reported a day after the storm crashed ashore in Nicaragua, uprooting trees and ripping the roofs off houses.

Though the storm's remnants were expected to drop an additional 4 to 8 inches on already saturated ground, President Enrique Bolanos said his country had escaped a major catastrophe from Beta. He pledged to quickly get aid to remote towns cut off by flooding and landslides.

"No one was injured, no one was killed, thank God," he said. He added, however, that "it's not over. Now we have to reconstruct the houses it destroyed."

While powerful at times, Beta was a small storm, with its initial hurricane-force winds extending outward only about 15 miles, said the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The record 13th hurricane of this year's Atlantic storm season hit land Sunday near the remote town of Sandy Bay Sirpi, 200 miles northeast of the capital, Managua, as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds, the hurricane center said. It then weakened to a tropical storm and eventually became a depression.

Nicaragua's army chief, Gen. Omar Halleslevens, said Beta had destroyed or damaged some houses, ripped off building roofs, knocked down trees and caused some flooding. He said it also damaged at least one pier.

Thousands of people had been evacuated from the far northeastern region of Nicaragua on the Honduras border, where the hurricane was expected to make landfall before it turned to the south.

Jack Howard, mayor of the central coastal town of Laguna de Perlas, told local television that 700 people were trapped in Tasbapauni, a town separated from the mainland by a lagoon.

In Honduras, authorities evacuated more than 7,800 people Sunday from 50 communities north of the Nicaraguan border after four rivers overflowed from rain brought by Beta.

Strong winds knocked down signs, fences, trees and electricity and telephone poles, cutting off power and communication in hundreds of communities and at least two highways were blocked, said the country's disaster response chief, Hugo Arevalo.

Flooding damaged rice, corn and bean fields. High waters also sent snakes out of the jungle into residential areas, although there were no reports of snakebites.

The Honduran government set up shelters at schools and state buildings, while the national soccer league suspended all its games. The airports at La Ceiba and Roatan on the coast were operating sporadically due to poor visibility, strong winds and flooding.

President Ricardo Maduro said he had requested the help of helicopters at the U.S. air base at Palmerola, 30 miles north of the capital, to ferry supplies to flooded areas. He said the government had begun distributing about 2,000 tons of food donated by the United Nations.

"We are facing serious danger from the rain," Maduro said. "We are staying on alert in nearly every part of the nation."

Before coming ashore, Beta lashed the Colombian island of Providencia with heavy winds, torrential rains and high surf. At least 30 people were injured on the tiny island about 125 miles off Nicaragua's coast, officials said.

Early this month, the Category 1 Hurricane Stan hit this region, causing floods and mudslides that killed at least 654 people in Guatemala and 71 each in El Salvador and the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. An additional 828 people are still missing in Guatemala.

Hurricane Wilma, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm, killed four people in Mexico, 12 in Haiti and one in Jamaica before killing 21 in southern Florida. It caused an estimated $1 billion in damage to Mexico's Cancun resorts and widespread power outages and other wreckage in Florida.


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