Hur­ri­cane kills 9 in Costa Rica

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A hur­ri­cane that churned its way across Cen­tral Amer­ica be­fore sweep­ing into the Pa­cific on Fri­day killed at least nine peo­ple in Costa Rica and caused mil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age, of­fi­cials said.

Pres­i­dent Luis Guillermo So­lis de­clared three days of mourn­ing, start­ing Mon­day. In neigh­bor­ing Nicaragua, of­fi­cials re­ported no ca­su­al­ties but dozens of homes were dam­aged in low­ly­ing ar­eas.

Hur­ri­cane Otto had sparked red alerts in both coun­tries when it spun in from the Caribbean on Thurs­day with winds of up to 175 kilo­me­ters (110 miles) per hour. It made land­fall in south­east­ern Nicaragua, in an area with na­tional re­serves that is sparsely in­hab­ited, be­fore cross­ing into Costa Rica, los­ing strength as it went. Early Fri­day it headed out into the Pa­cific Ocean as a down­graded trop­i­cal storm. It should con­tinue to weaken, the US Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said. A Costa Ri­can po­lice of­fi­cial, Wal­ter Espinoza, told a news con­fer­ence:

“The num­ber of peo­ple killed is nine. We have re­cov­ered eight bod­ies, only one re­mains.” So­lis said the storm dumped a month’s worth of rain in just a few hours in Costa Rica. Au­thor­i­ties said it caused around $8 mil­lion in dam­age to roads. Aerial tele­vi­sion pic­tures from north­ern Costa Rica showed wa­ter and mud in sev­eral towns, and small bridges col­lapsed.

Up­dat­ing an ear­lier death toll of four, Espinoza said five of the nine peo­ple killed died in Upala, a town near the bor­der with Nicaragua that found it­self in the storm’s path. An Upala res­i­dent, Juan, told the Repre­tel chan­nel he lost his son when ris­ing wa­ters tore away his home on a river bank. The other four died in Ba­gaces, a town 100 kilo­me­ters (60 miles) north of the cap­i­tal San Jose. In Nicaragua, the govern­ment’s spokesper­son, First Lady Rosario Murillo, said: “Up to now, thank God, we haven’t counted any loss of hu­man life.” Of­fi­cials in both coun­tries had evac­u­ated the most at-risk ar­eas be­fore the hur­ri­cane hit, and closed schools and mo­bi­lized emer­gency crews. Of­fi­cials in Costa Rica said 5,500 peo­ple had been put up in shelters. Nicaragua had 44 shelters op­er­at­ing for many of the 10,500 peo­ple who had been evac­u­ated.

UN agen­cies and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions had sup­ported the emer­gency re­sponse, the UN of­fice co­or­di­nat­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian af­fairs said in a state­ment. Early this week, as Otto gath­ered strength in the Caribbean, its outer bands of wind and rain con­trib­uted to the deaths of eight peo­ple in Panama, ac­cord­ing to the na­tional civil pro­tec­tion ser­vice.

On Thurs­day, at the same time as the hur­ri­cane struck, a 7.0 earth­quake was reg­is­tered on the other side of the Cen­tral Amer­i­can isth­mus, 120 kilo­me­ters (75 miles) off­shore in the Pa­cific Ocean. Although the tem­blor prompted pan­icked res­i­dents in El Sal­vador’s cap­i­tal to run out of build­ings, and briefly sparked tsunami alerts in El Sal­vador and Nicaragua, no dam­age was re­ported. The sole ca­su­alty was in Nicaragua, where one per­son died of a heart at­tack. — AFP

CAR­DE­NAS: A young man car­ries his bi­cy­cle across a road that flooded af­ter the pass­ing of Hur­ri­cane Otto in Car­de­nas on Fri­day.—AP

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