PUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua (AP) – Hurricane Beta pounded Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast with heavy rains and powerful winds yesterday as thousands of people rode out the storm in boarded-up homes or government shelters.
The storm came ashore near the remote town of La Barra as a category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds. But it weakened to a category 1 with 90 mph winds as it moved inland, dumping up to 15 inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
While powerful, Beta was a small hurricane, with hurricane force winds extending outward only up to 15 miles, the center said.
At 10 a.m. EST, the storm’s center was about 50 miles north of the coastal city of Bluefields. It was moving toward the southwest at nearly 7 mph.
Before reaching Central America, the record 13th hurricane of this year’s Atlantic storm season lashed the Colombian island of Providencia with heavy winds, torrential rains and high surf. At least 30 people were injured, Colombian Civil Defense Col. Eugenio Alarcon said.
The slow-moving storm battered the mountainous island for more than 12 hours, damaging more than 300 wooden homes and buildings, most with their roofs torn apart, he said. Most of the 5,000 islanders found safety at brick shelters in the hills.
In Nicaragua, President Enrique Bolanos declared a maximum “red alert” late Saturday, ordering some 45,000 people from the port regions to stay in their homes or hole up in 15 shelters provided by the government.
Earlier in the day, soldiers evacuated 10,000 people from the far eastern coastal port of Cabo de Gracias a Dios and from along the River Coco, both on the Honduras border, said Nicaragua’s national civil defense director, Lt. Col. Mario Perez Cassar.
The Civil Defense Department sent 100 army rescue specialists along with various land and water vehicles. A tent hospital also was set up, while universities and public schools were closed and converted into shelters. Flights to the Nicaraguan islands Islas del Maiz were canceled.