SAN JOSE – The eye of Hurricane Otto passed over Costa Rica Thursday afternoon, bringing winds of at least 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour and dumping rain in the northern part of the country, the National Weather Institute, or IMN, announced.
“Otto remains a Category 2 hurricane. It entered Costa Rica at 3 p.m. near Los Chiles, in Alajuela province, bordering on Nicaragua,” said the IMN in its latest bulletin.
The IMN added that the storm is moving west at 19 kph and is “weakening gradually” with “moderate” rain falling at present and between 20 and 80 millimeters (0.8 – 3.2 inches) having accumulated over the past three hours.
The hurricane should pass out over the Pacific Ocean on Friday as a tropical storm, according to the present forecast.
Although more than 3,100 people are being housed in shelters in Costa Rica due to the storm, the winds have been moderate and wind gusts have been between 60 and 120 kph, the IMN said, and the National Emergency Commission added that there have been no reports of deaths or missing persons so far.
Panama’s Sinaproc civil protection agency, meanwhile, said that eight citizens of that country had died as a result of the storm.
Sinaproc chief Jose Donderis said that three people died, two of them when their home was crushed by a tree and the third when she was swept away by floodwaters, and five others lost their lives while engaged in risky behavior and/or while ignoring authorities’ advice during the storm.
He added that during the seven days that Otto beset the country, 2,431 people were directly affected by the storm, although the hurricane did not actually make landfall in Panama. Eight shelters took in 573 people during that period.
Panama on Thursday lifted the prohibition on ocean navigation in its Caribbean waters imposed as a result of the storm, but the Panamanian Maritime Authority said that three crewmembers are missing from a vessel named the Jessica, and an air and sea search is being conducted by the SENAN national air-sea service.
Hurricane Otto made landfall Thursday on Nicaragua’s southeastern coast, bringing torrential rain and heavy winds to the region bordering Costa Rica, authorities reported.
The eye of the storm, which at the time was packing sustained winds of 175 kilometers (109 miles) per hour, came ashore at San Juan de Nicaragua, the head of Nicaragua’s Ineter weather institute, Marcio Baca, told reporters.
He said that Otto was also bringing wind gusts of greater than 190 kph in some parts of the country.
In San Juan de Nicaragua, a town of some 2,600 in the extreme southern portion of Nicaragua’s Caribbean zone on the border with Costa Rica, hundreds of shelters have been opened where at least 400 people are being housed. The public bought food and other supplies and the area was tensely calm in advance of the storm.
The Nicaraguan government on Thursday extended the red alert throughout the southern part of the country, where more than one million people live, in advance of Hurricane Otto’s arrival.