Otto’s pounding rains kill 9, swamp sections of Costa Rica
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Tropical Storm Otto killed at least nine people in Costa Rica and then headed into the Pacific Ocean on Friday after making landfall as the southernmost hurricane on record to hit Central America.
Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said nine people had been killed in the area of Bagaces and Upala, a town south of the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border. Earlier, he said at least six people were missing in the nearby town of Bijagua.
Solis said as much water fell on the area in a few hours as normally falls in a month, and said some people had been trapped by rising waters.
The United States sent airplanes and neighboring Panama sent planes and helicopters to aid in the search and rescue efforts in the area, where rainswollen rivers overflowed their banks.
Otto made landfall on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast Thursday as a Category 2 storm, but it faded to tropical storm force before emerging over the eastern Pacific early Friday.
Authorities in Nicaragua said the hurricane had damaged or destroyed 400 houses, but there were no reports of casualties. Earli- er, heavy rains from the storm were blamed for three deaths in Panama.
Otto battered Nicaragua’s Corn Islands with 10-foot waves and damaged houses, but residents were safe, said the archipelago’s mayor, Cleveland Rolando Webster.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was projected to keep moving westward away from Central America, further into Pacific.
Solis said Otto could damage the country’s coffee and agriculture sectors. Nicaragua also feared damage to coffee crops that are almost ready for harvest.
A man in an improvised raft surveys his home Friday in Upala, Costa Rica.