Hurricane Otto forces thousands to flee in Central America

Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes as Hurricane Otto heads towards Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Heavy rains from the unusually strong late-season storm have already been blamed for three deaths in Panama. Otto was forecast to make landfall in in Nicaragua, just north of the Costa Rican border, on Thursday. Officials in Costa Rica, which has declared a national emergency, ordered the evacuation of 4,000 people from its Caribbean coast and closed schools for the rest of the week.

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 Heifer International, a U.S.-based anti-poverty group

The country’s National Meteorological Institute says it will be the first time a hurricane has made landfall in Costa Rica since records began. Nicaragua also closed schools and was evacuating more than 10,000 people from areas in the storm’s path. Heavy rains were expected to affect the entire country on Thursday and Friday, raising the possibility of flooding and landslides in the interior. The US National Hurricane Centre said Otto had regained hurricane strength late on Wednesday, with winds of 85mph (140kph), after fluctuating between tropical storm and hurricane status earlier this week.