Publishedduration12 minutes agomedia captionPolice and church goers took to their knees in prayer asking for protection from Iota

At least nine people have lost their lives as the strongest Atlantic hurricane of the year rips through areas of central America.

Tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes as Hurricane Iota hit Nicaragua and neighbouring countries.

The rainfall is expected to cause mudslides and potentially deadly flash flooding and river flooding.

Winds of 257km/h (160mph) have hit areas still recovering from Eta, a major hurricane that hit two weeks ago.

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media captionHeavy rains as Hurricane Iota nears land

In Honduras, more than 71,000 people are in shelters, while El Salvador, Colombia and Panama have also been affected.

Reuters news agency reported that up to 20 people may have lost their lives in the storms. Nicaraguan media reported that a landslide had killed at least 15 other people.

image copyrightReutersimage captionResidents recover a mattress from the debris of their house in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaraguaimage copyrightReutersimage captionA child pushes his bicycle through a flooded road in Hondurasimage copyrightReutersimage captionWinds of over 250 km/h have hit some areas

The hurricane remains significant but has now weakened in terms of wind strength and has sustained winds of 170km/h. It will continue to weaken as it moves further inland.

Iota is the strongest Atlantic hurricane of the year and only the second November hurricane to reach category five – the last was in 1932.

image copyrightReutersimage captionPeople walk along a beach after the passing of Hurricane Iota Nicaragua

This year's Atlantic hurricane season has broken the record for the number of named storms. For only the second time on record officials have had to start using the letters of the Greek alphabet to start storm names after running out of names on its traditional alphabetical list.

Eta left at least 200 people dead. The worst-hit area was Guatemala's central Alta Verapaz region, where mudslides buried dozens of homes in the village of Quej√°, with some 100 people feared dead. At least 50 deaths were reported elsewhere in Guatemala.