The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Eta was located about 230 miles west-southwest of Camaguey, Cuba, and was moving northeast at 17 mph with winds of 60 mph. The storm was expected to approach the Cayman Islands, be near Cuba Saturday night and Sunday, and approach the Florida Keys or south Florida late Sunday.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for central Cuba, southern Florida and the Florida Keys. The hurricane center said flash floods could occur in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the Bahamas and southern Florida.
Back in Central America, which Eta reached as a Category 4 hurricane Tuesday, authorities from Panama to Mexico were still surveying the damages from flooding and landslides following days of torrential rains. The confirmed death toll was in the dozens and expected to rise.
On Friday, search teams in Guatemala pulled the first bodies from a landslide in San Cristobal Verapaz, but the work was slow and help was trickling in. Teams first had to overcome multiple landslides and deep mud just to reach the site where officials have estimated some 150 homes were devastated.
In the village of Queja, where a hillside collapsed onto homes, rescue workers used a helicopter to evacuate survivor Emilio Caal. He suffered a dislocated shoulder when the landslide sent rocks, trees and dirt hurtling onto the home where he was about to sit down to lunch with his wife and grandchildren. Caal said he was blown several yards by the force of the slide, and that none of the others were able to get out.
“My wife is dead, my grandchildren are dead,” said Caal from a nearby hospital.
In neighboring Honduras, Maria Elena Mejia Guadron, 68, died when the brown waters of the Chamelecon River poured into San Pedro Sula’s Planeta neighborhood before dawn Thursday.
Mirian Esperanza Najera Mejia had fled her home in the dark with her two children and Mejia, her mother. But while she held tight to her children, the current swept Mejia away.
Najera continued searching desperately for her mother Friday morning. But Mejia’s body was recovered later and taken to the morgue, where her relatives identified her.
In southern Mexico, across the border from Guatemala, 20 people died as heavy rains attributed to Eta caused mudslides and swelled streams and rivers. The worst incident in Mexico occurred in the township of Chenalho, where 10 people were swept away by a rain-swollen stream; their bodies were later found downstream.