Hur­ri­cane swirls to­ward Cen­tral Amer­ica, killing 3

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Hur­ri­cane Otto was fore­cast to strengthen in the Caribbean as it churned to­ward Cen­tral Amer­ica Tues­day, caus­ing three deaths in Panama and prompt­ing coastal evac­u­a­tions in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Otto be­came the sev­enth hur­ri­cane of the 2016 At­lantic sea­son. The hur­ri­cane, which is pack­ing max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 75 miles per hour, is ex­pected to pick up strength and speed as it moves west­ward, ap­proach­ing Costa Rica and Nicaragua today be­fore mak­ing land­fall, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said in a 0300 GMT Wed­nes­day bul­letin.

Cur­rently, hur­ri­cane-force winds were ex­tend­ing up to 10 miles from the cen­ter. Otto’s rains “will likely re­sult in life-threat­en­ing flash floods and mud slides,” while “life-threat­en­ing surf and rip-cur­rent con­di­tions” will be ex­pe­ri­enced along the coasts of Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the Mi­ami-based cen­ter warned. In Panama, two peo­ple died from a mud­slide and one was killed by a fall­ing tree at the on­set of Otto’s heavy rain, the head of the Na­tional Civil Pro­tec­tion Ser­vice, Jose Don­deris said. Nine peo­ple were caught in the mud­slide that oc­curred west of the cap­i­tal.

“Seven were res­cued and un­for­tu­nately two de­ceased peo­ple were re­cov­ered,” he said. The other death was that of a boy hit by a tree that fell on the car he was in while wait­ing with his mother out­side his school in the cap­i­tal, Don­deris said. The mother sur­vived. Of­fi­cials in the coun­try or­dered all schools closed. Gov­ern­ment work­ers were told to leave of­fices hours early yes­ter­day.

Neigh­bor­ing Costa Rica on Tues­day or­dered the evac­u­a­tion of more than 4,000 peo­ple along the sparsely in­hab­ited north­ern part of its Caribbean coast to avoid fa­tal­i­ties. “We will not al­low peo­ple to re­main in at-risk ar­eas and loss of hu­man life,” Pres­i­dent Luis Guillermo So­lis told a news con­fer­ence. The or­der did not ex­tend to Costa Rica’s prin­ci­pal port city of Li­mon on the south­ern Caribbean coast. The city, home to around 60,000 peo­ple, is pro­jected to feel the glanc­ing force of the hur­ri­cane. Nicaragua, the poor­est coun­try in Cen­tral Amer­ica, has is­sued a na­tional alert and also or­dered coastal evac­u­a­tions. The co-di­rec­tor of the SINAPRED na­tional dis­as­ter agency, Guillermo Gon­za­lez, said navy ships would evac­u­ate peo­ple on Lit­tle Corn Is­land, a pop­u­lar Nicaraguan tourist spot in the Caribbean, to shel­ters on big­ger Corn Is­land.

Civil­ian Nicaraguan ves­sels at sea were or­dered back to port. The storm was ex­pected to pass near Managua, Nicaragua’s in­land cap­i­tal today. Ac­cord­ing to fore­casts, Otto was to cut across the nar­row Cen­tral Amer­i­can isth­mus, los­ing strength be­fore ex­it­ing out into the Pa­cific Ocean on Fri­day. The storm was a late ar­rival in the At­lantic hur­ri­cane sea­son, which typ­i­cally runs from June to the end of Novem­ber, and was hit­ting land un­usu­ally south. Costa Rica has not ex­pe­ri­enced a di­rect hit from a hur­ri­cane since records be­gan in 1951. A pre­vi­ous hur­ri­cane, Matthew, dev­as­tated parts of south­ern Haiti in early Oc­to­ber, killing 546 peo­ple and leav­ing nearly 175,000 home­less. — AFP

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