Nearly a month after being hit by the second of two November hurricanes, Honduras is struggling with the widespread loss of homes, farms, businesses, schools, roads, and bridges. Many are without power and clean water. People are still being rescued by boat, NPR reports, and cities are swamped by mudslides are still being dug out. A doctor sent by Project Hope said that in 15 years of disaster work, "I have never been to a place that was struck by two hurricanes in two weeks." The hurricanes struck land first in Nicaragua, but the rainfall dumped on the hillsides of Honduras—on top of a record hurricane season—caused the most destruction. About 100 people were killed by Eta and Iota, per Reuters. The damage compares to that caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, aid officials say, which left 3 million people homeless.
And this happened during a pandemic. A Red Cross official said travel restrictions complicate efforts to deliver help. With thousands of people crammed into homeless shelters, officials fear a rise in COVID-19 cases. The shelters are trying to follow the protocols, the doctor said, and there's been no spike yet, "but the problem is this [COVID-19] is their secondary problem." Rescue efforts cannot maintain social distancing. "They're cramming as many people as they can on these boats and going back and doing multiple trips," the Red Cross official said. "That cannot be good." Analysts say the poverty level in Honduras could rise 10% because of the destruction, per Amnesty International. After Mitch, thousands moved to the US. "We will have to start over," a 34-year-old barber said. “We can’t do it alone. If not, I'll have to think about what many have done in the past, go to the United States." (Read more Honduras stories.)