Tropical Storm Otto leaves nine dead

Tropical Storm Otto leaves nine dead

Tropical storm Otto killed at least nine people and forced thousands to evacuate when it battered Nicaragua and Costa Rica with hurricane-force winds and torrential rains, before moving out into the Pacific Ocean.

Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solis attended the same press conference and said his government had decreed three days of national mourning, starting November 28, to allow time for search and rescue efforts.

Solis said as much water fell on the area in a few hours as normally falls in a month, and said some people had been trapped by rising waters.

Several towns were covered by water and mud, and small bridges collapsed.

Otto on Thursday struck the municipality of San Juan de Nicaragua in the extreme southeast of the country as a category-2 hurricane with winds up to 110 miles per hour, the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies, or Ineter, said.

Otto, the seventh Atlantic hurricane of the season, landed north of the town of San Juan de Nicaragua as a Category 2 storm, the Miami-based NHC said.

Hurricane warnings were issued for parts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Civil defense officials in Panama say the country has already seen three deaths blamed on late-season Tropical Storm Otto.

Hurricane Otto slammed Cardenas municipality in southern Nicaragua Thursday night with heavy rains and gusting winds that left communities without electricity, with damaged roads and roofs, and with fallen trees.

Up to now, four people are known to have died and an indeterminate number are missing, while authorities continue to study the extent of the damage and provide humanitarian aid.

President Daniel Ortega declared a state of emergency, but by yesterday there were no reports of widespread destruction.

Officials in both countries had evacuated the most at-risk areas before the hurricane hit, and closed schools and mobilized emergency crews.

United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations had supported the emergency response, the United Nations office coordinating humanitarian affairs said in a statement.

Although the temblor prompted panicked residents in El Salvador's capital to run out of buildings, and briefly sparked tsunami alerts in El Salvador and Nicaragua, no damage was reported.