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Hurricane Otto: Costa Rica declares national emergency as storm heads for coast

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Thousands ordered to evacuate in Nicaragua and Costa Rica after storm strengthens over the Caribbean

Costa Ricas president has declared a state of emergency and thousands have been evacuated from its Caribbean coast as hurricane Otto strengthened and began heading toward land.

Luis Guillermo Sols urged vehicles off the roads and said hospitals in the most at-risk areas of San Carlos, Upala and Los Chiles had suspended elective surgeries and were transferring patients to to other areas.

The unusually late-season storm is heading towards neighbouring Nicaragua, which has ordered the evacuation of low-lying areas of its sparsely populated Caribbean coast, an order that could cover about 7,000 people.

Chuck Copeland Wx (@NCHurricane_com)

The National Hurricane Center 2-Day Graphical #Tropical #Atlantic Outlook: https://t.co/RftG75M6t5 #hurricane pic.twitter.com/EkqkfRTOFT

November 24, 2016

The US National Hurricane Center in Miami said Otto was a category one hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 140km/h (85mph) and was moving west at a speed of 15km/h (9mph). On Wednesday night, the storm was 160km (100 miles) north-northeast of Limon, Costa Rica.

A hurricane warning is in effect from Limon to Bluefields. Forecasters say the center of Otto is expected to make landfall in that warning area sometime Thursday and reach the Pacific coast of southern Nicaragua or northern Costa Rica sometime early Friday.

Heavy rains from the storm have been blamed for three deaths in Panama so far, and officials in Costa Rica have urged 4,000 people to leave the Caribbean coast.

Luis Guillermo Sols (@luisguillermosr)

Detalle de alerta en todo el pas pic.twitter.com/ESjrHtMagS

November 24, 2016

Jose Donderis, Panamas civil defense director, said a landslide just west of Panama city early on Tuesday trapped nine people. Seven were rescued but two bodies were pulled from the mud. In the capital, a child was killed when a tree fell on a car outside a school.

Panamanian authorities canceled school and began to release water from the locks and lakes feeding the Panama Canal.

Costa Ricas National Emergency Commission said it was evacuating 4,000 people from the area where the storm was expected to hit and where rivers could overflow. The effort was expected to involve evacuations by plane, boat and road in the low-lying coastal areas.

Costa Ricas president, Luis Guillermo Solis, said Otto could damage the countrys important coffee and agriculture sectors.

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Red Cross members help people prepare to be evacuated as Otto approaches in Barra de Colorado, Costa Rica, on Wednesday. Photograph: Reuters

Nicaragua also feared damage for impoverished farmers there; Otto could threaten coffee crops that are almost ready for harvest.

Otto could seriously jeopardize food security for small-holder farmers who rely on maize, beans, cocoa, honey, coffee and livestock for their livelihoods, said Jennifer Zapata, a regional director for Heifer International, a US-based anti-poverty group.

On Wednesday, the hurricane had top sustained winds of 75 mph (110 kph) and was moving west at 8 mph (13 kph), the U.S. hurricane center said. Otto was centered about 180 miles (285 kilometers) east-southeast of Bluefields.

Associated Press contributed to this report

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/24/hurricane-otto-costa-rica-nicaragua-emergency-storm-caribbean

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