MANAGUA - Hurricane Ida slammed into Nicaragua's Caribbean coast on Thursday after dumping heavy rain on little-developed offshore islands where hundreds of people were evacuated from flimsy homes.
At 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) Ida was located about 75 miles north of the port of Bluefields, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, pounding the remote Miskito coast region with near 75 mph winds.
General Mario Perez-Cassar, Nicaragua's civil defense chief, said strong winds ripped roofs and knocked out power in Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island, some 50 miles northeast of Bluefields, home to shrimp and lobster fishermen.
They are without power, all the electric lines are down, there are trees on the roads and no running water, Perez-Cassar told local television.
The Miami-based NHC said Ida could produce up to 20 inches of rain as it moves over eastern Nicaragua and into Honduras, risking dangerous flash floods and mud slides, but forecast it would likely weaken to a tropical storm later in the day.
Nicaragua and Honduras are key coffee exporters, and harvesting has been under way since October, but farms are mainly in mountainous areas further inland.
Persistent heavy rain could knock ripe cherries off coffee trees if it moves inland, however, and mudslides could cut off roads to coffee farms, Luis Osorio, technical director at the national coffee council, said on Wednesday.
Ida was moving northwest at close to 6 mph and the NHC's forecast showed it passing over Central America and regaining strength by Monday off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. That could take it into the oil and gas-rich Gulf of Mexico.
Nearly 2,000 people in the Corn Islands and Sandy Bay were evacuated to shelters. We are expecting serious impact on infrastructure, Perez-Cassar said.
(Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Washington; Writing by Cyntia Barrera; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Alan Elsner)