ROME — Pope Francis has urged Christians to pray for the victims of hurricane Eta, which has claimed scores of lives since striking Nicaragua last Tuesday.
“I see a flag there,” the pope said in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican following his weekly Angelus message on Sunday. It “makes me think of the populations of Central America, hit in recent days by a violent hurricane, which claimed many victims and caused immense damage, aggravated by the already difficult situation of the pandemic.”
“May the Lord welcome the deceased, comfort their families and sustain those most in need, as well as all those who are doing all they can to help them,” the pontiff added.
Later, the pope’s media team sent out a tweet from his account, repeating the same message in several different languages.
The storm began as a category 4 hurricane on Tuesday but slowly lost force, becoming a tropical rainstorm, but the torrential rains caused extensive flooding and mudslides.
One major mudslide on a mountainside in central Guatemala buried homes in the town of San Cristobal Verapaz, leaving at least 25 dead. Two other avalanches in Huehuetenango killed at least another 12 people, and smaller slides accounted for another 5 deaths.
On Friday, search teams pulled bodies from the earth where a mudslide had buried at least 100 people, the Associated Press (AP) reported. In total, more than 100 are still missing.
Meanwhile, 19 more people died in southern Mexico from mudslides and flooded streams and rivers, Chiapas state civil defense official Elías Morales Rodríguez said.
Early Sunday, Tropical Storm Eta struck Cuba and began moving toward the southern tip of Florida and the U.S. National Hurricane Center issued tropical storm warnings for southern Florida and the Florida Keys.