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Tropical storm Eta makes landfall in Florida after leaving dozens dead and missing


State officials closed beaches, ports and Covid testing sites ahead of Eta’s arrival Sunday night

A strengthening Tropical Storm Eta made landfall on Florida’s Lower Matecumbe Key on Sunday night, days after leaving scores of dead and more than 100 missing in Mexico and Central America.

The US National Hurricane Center in Miami declared hurricane and storm surge warnings for the Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas, including Florida Bay.

Florida officials closed beaches, ports and Covid testing sites, shut down public transportation and urged residents to stay off the streets. Some districts shut down in-person schooling on Monday. Several shelters also opened in Miami and the Florida Keys for residents in mobile homes and low lying areas.

On Sunday night, authorities in Lauderhill, Florida, responded to a report of a car that had driven into a canal. Photos taken by fire units on the scene about 30 miles (48km) north of Miami showed rescuers searching what appeared to be flooded waters near a parking lot.

Eta had maximum sustained winds of 65mph (100km/h) on Sunday night and was centered about 30 miles (45km) east-north-east of Marathon, Florida, and 70 miles (115km) east-north-east of Key West. It was moving west-north-west at 14mph (22km/h).

The storm swelled rivers and flooded coastal zones in Cuba, where 25,000 had been evacuated. But there were no reports of deaths.

Eta hit Cuba even as searchers in Guatemala were still digging for people believed buried by a massive, rain-fueled landslide. Authorities on Sunday raised the known death toll there to 27 from 15 and said more than 100 were missing in Guatemala, many of them in the landslide in San Cristobal Verapaz.

About 60,000 people had been evacuated in Guatemala.

At least 20 people also were reported dead in southern Mexico and local officials in Honduras reported 21, though the national disaster agency had confirmed only eight.

Pope Francis on Sunday spoke about the population of Central America, hit “by a violent hurricane, which has caused many victims and huge damage, worsened as well by the already difficult situation due to the pandemic”. Speaking to faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square, Francis prayed that “the Lord welcome the deceased, comfort their families and sustain all those so tried, as well as all those who are doing their best to help them”.

In Florida, the governor declared a state of emergency Saturday for eight counties at the end of the state as Eta approached, urging residents to stock up on supplies.

Miami-Dade county declared a state of emergency Friday night and also warned a flood watch would be in effect through Tuesday night.

Eta initially hit Nicaragua as a category 4 hurricane, and authorities from Panama to Mexico were still surveying the damages following days of torrential rains during the week.


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