Nicaraguan authorities have begun with the unpleasant works to recover the areas devastated by Hurricane Felix, which killed at least 40 people in the northeastern coast of the Central American nation. As international aid start arriving, President Daniel Ortega visited the affected region promising the families of the missing that army boats and planes are intensifying their search in Nicaragua's Caribbean archipelago.
Nicaragua's northeastern coast suffered the worst damage from Hurricane Felix when it came ashore Tuesday, bringing heavy rains and winds of up to 260 kilometers per hour. The category-five storm destroyed thousands of homes and ripped off roofs in and around the city of Puerto Cabezas, which is home to many Miskito Indians.
Security officials said thousands of people were left homeless by the storm and said rescue crews were searching for scores of people who may have been swept out to sea by powerful waves. President Ortega highlighted aid coming from Venezuela and Honduras.
Mexico, Panama and the United States have also contributed with equipment to support the rescuing operations in the damaged areas.
There is no accurate numbers of people killed and wounded. The issue sparked a controversy between Ortega and the press. Independent media believes the government is not releasing the real death toll, not to alarm the population.
"I call on the media not to specify a number," he said. "We know there are more deaths than official figures, but we have to give people hope because many people have been rescued."
Official figures say that 38,000 people have suffered in some way, 13,000 are homeless and nearly 6,000 homes have been severely damaged. Earlier on Wednesday the nation's civil defense authority said it had found nine bodies, but the figure would rise as rescuers penetrated the mountainous region on Nicaragua's northern Caribbean coast.
Hurricane Felix also hit parts of Honduras, causing floods and mudslides, but officials expressed relief that the storm did not cause more serious damage. The latest storm triggered memories of Hurricane Mitch, which killed at least 10,000 people in Honduras and Nicaragua in 1998.