December 3, 2023

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Tropical Storm Boni swept through Nicaragua creating a flood risk from torrential rain, as it made an expected rapid crossing on its way to the Pacific Ocean and the possibility of a hurricane.

The US National Hurricane Center said Bonnie came ashore late Friday on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of Bluefields. Forecasters have warned of the danger of major flooding, with rain of up to 8 inches (about 20 cm), and even more in isolated places.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) on landfall and was moving west at 16 mph (26 kph) on a path that is also expected to take it over part of Costa Rica during the night. It was expected to move into the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, then begin to gain strength, potentially reaching hurricane strength by Monday.

Authorities in Bluefields said they erected 50 temporary shelters before the storm arrived, and many of its 57,000 residents have installed shingles above their windows.

Many Nicaraguans still remember Hurricane Juan, a powerful 1988 storm that wreaked havoc on the coast and killed nearly 150 people in the country.

“We’re waiting for the storm to hit, hoping it doesn’t destroy our area,” Bluefields resident Ricardo Gomez, who was eight when Joanne hit, said before Bonnie arrived.

Two powerful hurricanes, Eta and Ota, also hit the region in quick succession in 2020, causing an estimated $700 million in damages.

Costa Rica officials have expressed concern that the storm will trigger landslides and flooding in an area already saturated with days of rain. The government said seven shelters in the northern part of the country are already sheltering nearly 700 people displaced by the floods.

A massive landslide a week ago cut off the main highway connecting the capital, San Jose, to the Caribbean coast and remained closed on Friday. The government canceled classes nationwide Friday.

Earlier heavy rains also destroyed or damaged a number of bridges.

Fast-moving weather turbulence began inundating parts of the Caribbean on Monday but did not meet specific tropical storm criteria until Friday.

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