Hurricane Otto is expected to make landfall in Nicaragua on Thursday as the surprisingly late-season storm brews over the Caribbean, just off Central America. Three people died in Panama due to heavy rains associated with the hurricane.
Nicaragua has closed schools and is carrying out evacuations for over 10,000 people from areas in the storm’s path, while Costa Rica has declared a state of emergency.
Heavy rains are expected to lash Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Thursday and Friday, possibly causing floods and landslides in their path. While people were being evacuated by plane, boat and road in low-lying coastal areas, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said the hurricane could damage the country’s coffee and agriculture sectors. Otto could also pose a threat to the coffee crops in Nicaragua, which are almost ready for harvest, causing losses to impoverished farmers in the region.
Otto “could seriously jeopardize food security for small-holder farmers who rely on maize, beans, cocoa, honey, coffee and livestock for their livelihoods,” Jennifer Zapata, a regional director for U.S.-based anti-poverty group Heifer International, said according to the Associated Press.
A landslide in Panama trapped nine people early Tuesday, of which only seven were rescued. In Panama City, a child was killed when a tree fell on a car outside a school.
The Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center reportedly said Otto was a category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour (85 miles per hour), moving west at a speed of 15 kilometers per hour. The storm was 100 miles north-northeast of Limon, Costa Rica, on Wednesday night.
According to Costa Rica’s National Meteorological Institute, a hurricane has never — since record-keeping began — made landfall in the country.
Here are some pictures of the hurricane as it descends on Central America, and the evacuation efforts being carried out: