Hurricane Otto nears Nicaragua, Costa Rica forcing mass evacuations

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2016 9:26 AM

By Ivan Castro

BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Otto, a Category 2 hurricane, churned toward the Caribbean shores of Costa Rica and Nicaragua on Thursday, prompting evacuations in eastern coastal communities as people braced for the storm to make landfall later in the day.

At 7 a.m. EST, Otto was about 70 miles (113 km) north of the Costa Rican city of Limon, blowing 105 mile-per-hour (169 km-per-hour) winds, according to the U.S.-based National Hurricane Center.

The storm was moving west at 8 mph (13 kph), the NHC said, and was expected to make landfall somewhere between Nicaragua and Costa Rica's east coasts later on Thursday.

In Bluefields, a coastal city in Nicaragua's southeast, rainfall began early on Thursday morning, with local forecasters suggesting the storm would hit around midday. By late Wednesday evening, local authorities had evacuated 600 people, with plans to move a further 7,000 into storm shelters.

On the Corn Islands, which face Bluefields and are popular with tourists, 1,400 people had been evacuated to shelters, with another 1,000 more moved from Punta Gorda, which lies south along the coast from Bluefields, local emergency services said.

Government officials said there had been some people along the country's southeast coast who had refused to evacuate, but the officials declined to say how many.

The NHC said Otto may well strengthen before hitting land.

"Weakening is expected after landfall, and Otto is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm by tonight," the NHC said.

Total rainfall of 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm), with isolated amounts of 15 to 20 inches, is expected across northern Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua on Thursday.

(Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)