Providencia and San Andrés hard hit by Hurricane Iota

By Emma Newbery November 18, 2020

Thousands of families without homes or water as category five Hurricane Iota devastates Colombia’s Caribbean islands.

Providencia and San Andrés hard hit by Hurricane Iota
Photo: TECHO Colombia

For 24 hours, the 5,000 inhabitants of the Caribbean island of Providencia had no electricity and no way to communicate with the rest of the world. Now, as news and images of the destruction emerge, authorities and NGOs are working to provide aid.

One person has died, one is missing and 98% of Providencia’s infrastructure has been destroyed. Many were left without electricity or drinking water after the hurricane reached its full strength in the early hours of Monday morning. Caribbean residents were already reeling from the effects of hurricane Eta, which struck less than two weeks ago. 

The wind reached over 230km per hour in the eye of the storm, just 8km away from Providencia. Hurricane Iota was the worst to ever hit Colombia, and the first category five hurricane the country has seen. Category five is the strongest and most damaging hurricane.

Hurricane Iota wreaks havoc

In San Andrés, roofs were blown off houses and roads and power lines destroyed. The flooding and wind damage left 60% of the island without power.

The devastation was even worse on the smaller island and popular tourist destination of Providencia. According to El Espectador, 80% of houses on the island were destroyed and the remaining 20% damaged. The hospital is too damaged to use, making it difficult to treat those injured in the storm.

Related: San Andrés and Providencia: A tale of two islands.

David Sánchez Campos, executive director of TECHO Colombia, reminded us that the whole Caribbean coast has been affected. “San Andrés and Providencia have been the most impacted,” he said. “But barrios in Cartagena, Barranquilla, the community of Nuevo Magdalena, as well as in el Chocó have also been affected.”

TECHO, an anti-poverty NGO that operates in Latin America, is one of several aid organisations working to get aid to those who need it. Sánchez explains the first step is to work with Defensa Civil and Cruz Roja to provide essential supplies for families. “Then we are trying to handle reconstruction assistance, both temporary housing and permanent housing.” 

Photo: TECHO Colombia

Sánchez said it’s impossible to know the full extent of the damage at this stage. “In Cartagena we have more than 600 families directly impacted, because their community is still under water. At the moment we identified about 2,000 families directly affected, because there’s rain in the entire country.”

How you can help

The full extent of the damage will become clearer in time, but several NGOs are working to provide food, hygiene kits and emergency housing in the short term. 

  • Donate to TECHO Colombia 
    Fundación Un Techo para mi país Colombia / Bancolombia / Account No. 039-596442-48 / NIT 900.117.515-1
  • Donate to Solidaridad Por Colombia
    Fundación Solidaridad por Colombia / Bancolombia / Account No. 16700010132 / NIT 860.071.169-1
  • Donate money, equipment, food, clothes or time to Red FiProvidence