Hurricane Otto nears Nicaragua, Costa Rica forcing mass evacuations
BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua - Hurricane Otto rumbled toward the Caribbean shores of Costa Rica and Nicaragua on Thursday, prompting evacuations in eastern coastal communities as people braced for the storm to hit land within hours. At 10 a.m. EST (1500...
BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua - Hurricane Otto rumbled toward the Caribbean shores of Costa Rica and Nicaragua on Thursday, prompting evacuations in eastern coastal communities as people braced for the storm to hit land within hours.
At 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), the Category 2 hurricane was about 75 miles (121 km) north-northwest of the Costa Rican city of Limon, blowing 110 mile-per-hour (177 km-per-hour) winds, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
In Bluefields, a city in Nicaragua's southeastern Mosquito Coast, 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.
"We left because we don't want to die; we love our lives," said 53-year-old Carmen Alvarado, who was bunkering down in a school in Bluefields. She was among the 206 people evacuated from the coastal community of El Bluff.
"The fear there is that we were surrounded by water," said 42-year-old Senelia Aragon, standing next to Alvarado, preparing a breakfast of flour tortillas with beans.
Bluefields, once an infamous pirate hangout, was smashed by Category 4 Hurricane Joan in 1988, a devastating storm that destroyed many of the town's 19th century wooden houses.
Otto was moving west at 9 mph (14 kph), the NHC said, and was expected to plow into the coast somewhere close to the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border in the next few hours.
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 become a tropical storm by tonight and additional weakening is anticipated thereafter," 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)