Otto weakens to tropical storm after passing over Nicaragua

 

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Tropical Storm Otto dashed across Nicaragua and headed into the Pacific Ocean Friday, dumping rain on the region after making landfall as the southernmost hurricane on record to hit Central America.

Otto reached Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast on Thursday as a dangerous 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 houses, but so far there were no reports of casualties. Earlier, heavy rains from the storm were blamed for three deaths in Panama.

Otto battered Nicaragua’s Corn Islands with 3.5-meter (10-foot) waves and damaged houses, but residents were all safe in refuges, said the archipelago’s mayor, Cleveland Rolando Webster.

“There is a lot of rain, the sea is rough and the wind is strong. We have been in danger all night, getting cold and wet,” said Alicia Lampson, 21, as she arrived at a shelter with a group of people from the village of Monkey Point, south of Bluefields, Nicaragua.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the unusually strong late-season hurricane hit land in Nicaragua just north of the Costa Rican border. By Friday morning it was centered about 115 miles (190 kilometers) west-southwest of Santa Elena, Costa Rica.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) and it was moving toward the west at 14 mph (22 kph). It was projected to keep moving westward away from Central America.

The Nicaraguan government earlier declared a state of emergency, and said evacuations would continue because of the continued risk of flooding. Schools were closed.

Officials in Costa Rica ordered the evacuation of 4,000 people from its Caribbean coast and called off school nationwide for the rest of the week.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said Otto could damage the country’s important coffee and agriculture sectors. Nicaragua also feared damage to coffee crops that are almost ready for harvest.

 

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