Blaze destroys much of island off Honduras’ northern coast

October 3, 2021 GMT

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — A blaze that ripped through a small, densely populated cay along a Honduran island destroyed about 40% of the area and left hundreds homeless the island’s mayor said Sunday.

Guanaja Mayor Spurgeon Miller told The Associated Press that 130 houses were completely destroyed and 10 more damaged on Bonacca Cay, just off the island. There were no reports of deaths, but at least six injuries. Miller said 800 people were homeless

National Emergency Commission chief Max Gonzales had said a day earlier that the fire destroyed 90 homes and damaged 136, though he said a more thorough survey would follow.

Video images on social media showed huge flames and a dense cloud of smoke rising from the Atlantic island of some 5,700 people, which is a tourist attraction as well as a fishing town.

Officials said they evacuated hundreds of people by sea as military aircraft dumped loads of water on the blaze from the air.

“If the helicopters hadn’t arrived, all of Guanaja was going to burn,” said Wanda Hurlston, a 54-year-old resident who lost her home.

She was sleeping with her seven grandchildren when they were warned to get out because flames were rapidly approaching.

“When we got up the fire was advancing, I had to leave with nothing and I lost everything,” said Hurlston, who took refuge in her mother’s house with three of the grandchildren, while the others went to stay with their mothers.

President Juan Orlando Hernández said the government was sending aid to the island, which is east of the larger island of Roatan off Honduras’ northern coast.

Authorities said Sunday they were trying to determine the cause of the fire,. which raced through housing made of wood and corrugated roofing.