Nate kills 22 in Central America

HURRICANE WATCH::After wreaking havoc in Costa Rica, Nicaragua as well as Honduras, the storm was forecast to pick up strength as it heads toward the US

AFP, SAN JOSE

Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 7

Tropical Storm Nate has killed at least 22 people in Central America with torrential rains that forced thousands from their homes, uprooted trees, knocked out bridges and turned roads into rivers, officials said on Thursday.

Forecasters predicted it would strengthen into a hurricane headed for Mexico and the US.

The country hardest hit by the storm that began on Wednesday was Nicaragua, with 11 dead and seven missing, Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo told state media.

Officials in Costa Rica said eight people died, including a three-year-old girl, after they were hit by falling trees and mudslides, and two young Nicaraguan farm workers. At least 17 people were missing.

Costa Rica declared a national emergency as it struggled with mudslides, washed out roads and overflowing rivers. Schools, universities, government offices and banks across the nation were closed.

Three other people were killed in Honduras.

Murillo said that 800 people had been evacuated, nearly 600 homes were flooded and 14 communities were isolated, because of rains that had been falling for days.

More than 5,000 people were being put up in shelters in Costa Rica after having to abandon their homes because of flooding and the risk of unstable ground giving way, National Emergency Commission Director Ivan Brenes said.

At least 18 main roads were closed and another dozen were only partially open.

In Costa Rica’s northwest Guanacaste region, a popular tourist site, many roads were so flooded as to be impassable to all but four-wheel-drive vehicles and horses.

As of Thursday night Nate was moving northwest along the east coast of Honduras and was expected to reach hurricane strength when it reaches the central Gulf of Mexico late yesterday or early today.

Storm or hurricane watches have been issued from Louisiana east through Mississippi and Alabama, the US National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin at 3am GMT.

Some offshore oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were being evacuated ahead of the storm, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in a statement.

The US is recovering from two major hurricanes: Hurricane Harvey, which tore through Texas in August, and Hurricane Irma last month.

Another powerful storm, Hurricane Maria, ripped through the Caribbean late last month, wreaking destruction on several islands, including Dominica and Puerto Rico.

In Costa Rica, an alert was issued for people to be wary of crocodiles that might be roaming after rivers and estuaries flooded.

Concerned soccer officials were monitoring the situation and postponed a World Cup qualifying match between Costa Rica and Honduras yesterday and today.

Costa Rica’s main international airport was open, but with multiple flight cancelations and delays.

The annual rainy season is currently under way in Central America, a five-month period typically ending in November in which the risk of flooding and mudslides rise.

This year’s has been intense, with some areas in the region getting up to 50 percent more rain than average for September and October.