As It Happens

After 2 hurricanes in Honduras, officials fear COVID-19 spread in shelters

After two back-to-back hurricanes ripped through Honduras, thousands of people are packing into shelters for refuge, raising concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Hurricanes Eta and Iota strike Honduras within weeks of each other, killing dozens

People line up for food under an overpass, where they are sheltered along other residents that lost their homes due to the floods caused by heavy rain brought by Storm Iota, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Nov. 19, 2020. (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters)


After two back-to-back hurricanes ripped through Honduras, thousands of people are packing into shelters for refuge, raising concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

With shelters full, some public schools and churches are also being used for refuge, but many in the city of San Pedro Sula are already crowded, said Luis Luna, a pastor at the Victory Church of God in nearby Villanueva.

"In a way... these past two hurricanes have completely made us forget about COVID-19. Of course, COVID hasn't forgotten us," he told As It Happens host Carol Off. "The virus is still lingering there."

Local officials expect to see an uptick in cases in the coming days because people aren't following proper public safety protocols in crowded shelters, the pastor said.

Honduras has already logged more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19, and nearly 2,900 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez last week issued an urgent plea for international help after Hurricane Iota reached Honduras as a Category 4 hurricane, triggering landslides in parts of the country still reeling from Hurricane Eta, which hit two weeks earlier. Dozens of people have died; thousands more have lost their homes.

WATCH | People in Honduras assess the storm damage:

Hondurans deal with aftermath of Hurricane Iota

2 years ago
Duration 1:15
People in Honduras are returning home and assessing damage after Hurricane Iota swept through Central America, bringing strong winds and devastating floods.   

Luna has delivered more than 2,000 hot meals and delivered food to 25 communities since the hurricanes hit. While driving through the affected regions, he's seen families living in small tents at the side of the road and on boulevards, and others living beneath a rain-swollen bridge without tents.

The pastor lived through Hurricane Mitch in 1999, when he was about six years old. He remembers the outpouring of international support that poured into Central America in its wake. Then-president Bill Clinton even visited Honduras.

But now, in the wake of hurricanes Iota and Eta, it seems different, Luna said.

"It's not that it hasn't been aid from the international community," he said. "I would have to say it's just that it hasn't been as evident as it was during Hurricane Mitch."

People have set up a tent on a boulevard in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where shelters are overcrowded in the wake of two recent hurricanes. (Submitted by Luis Luna)

Some local residents may not have much, but they do have hope, Luna said.

"Hondurans are a very resilient people in a way, and this year has been quite a lot. It's been quite a roller coaster, to put it mildly," Luna said.

"There's a saying that goes around and says only the people saves the people.... It basically communicates the idea that we ... can't expect anything from anyone else other than our fellow neighbour."

Written by Mary Vallis, with files from Reuters. Produced by Sarah Jackson.

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