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Otto enters Pacific after devastation, 4 dead in Costa Rica


November 25, 2016   by Luis Manuel Galeano - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


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MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Tropical Storm Otto killed at least four people in Costa Rica and then headed into the Pacific Ocean Friday after making landfall as the southernmost hurricane on record to hit Central America.

Panama Tropical Weather

Civil Defense workers look the area where a couple was killed after their home was destroyed by a mudslide in Arraijan on the outskirts of Panama City, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. Civil defense officials in Panama say the country has already seen three deaths blamed on late-season Tropical Storm Otto. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis announced that three had been killed in the town of Guayabo de Bagaces, a town south of the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border. He said a fourth person in an unspecified location, and that 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.

Otto made landfall on 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 that by Friday morning, the storm was centred about 245 miles (395 kilometres) south-southeast of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, and had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph). It was moving toward the west at 16 mph (26 kph). It was projected to keep moving westward away from Central America, further into Pacific.

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 evacuated 2,500 people before the hurricane hit and called off school nationwide for the rest of the week.

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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