Latin America & Caribbean

Hurricane Otto: Category two storm makes Nicaragua landfall

People carrying belongings and a pet leave their house as Hurricane Otto strikes in Bluefields, Nicaragua (24 November 2016) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The storm has so far only hit a lightly populated area of Nicaragua

Hurricane Otto has made landfall over a sparsely populated area of southern Nicaragua after strengthening to a category two storm, meteorologists from the US National Hurricane Centre say.

It says the storm is now near the town of San Juan de Nicaragua.

Costa Rica declared an emergency and ordered the evacuation of 4,000 people from Atlantic coastal areas.

Meanwhile, a powerful earthquake shook Nicaragua and El Salvador on Thursday triggering a brief tsunami alert.

The 7.0 magnitude quake in the Pacific Ocean was about 120km (75 miles) off the coast of El Salvador. There were no reports of damage or casualties but residents were initially advised to evacuate coastal areas. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center later said the threat had passed.

Nevertheless, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared a state of emergency due to the hurricane and the quake.

Potential for destruction

Hurricane Otto has wind speeds of up to 110mph (175km/h) and is expected to weaken to a tropical storm by Thursday night.

Forecasters have warned of heavy rains which they fear could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

Four people died in Panama earlier this week as a result of severe weather caused by the approach of Hurricane Otto.

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Media captionHurricane Otto
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Costa Rican authorities have been praised for their response to the storm
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nicaragua and Costa Rica urged people in areas at risk from Otto to evacuate
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The storm is expected to weaken after making landfall

A number of flights were cancelled in Costa Rica, but local media reported that US hard rock band Guns N' Roses were able to land ahead of their concert on Saturday.

Costa Rica has not been directly hit by a hurricane since records began in 1851.

A resident of the capital, San Jose, praised the authorities for their response.

"The government has been doing a great job in keeping people informed. We get messages constantly through our cell phones, mobile numbers," Gabriela Hernandez said.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis urged residents to heed official warnings.

"Let me be clear: the hurricane is potentially highly destructive. We hope no-one gets hurt, but that is why we must be prepared, and follow the authorities' orders."

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