Hurricane Julia hits Nicaragua with torrential rains

Hurricane Julia hit Nicaragua’s central Caribbean coast on Sunday after ravaging the Colombian island of San Andres, and a weakened storm was expected to rise over the Pacific Ocean.

Julia struck early Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 140 km/h, although winds had eased to 110 km/h by late morning as it passed through Nicaragua with heavy rainfall.

The US National Hurricane Center said Julia was about 65 miles (105 kilometers) east-northeast of Managua, the capital, and was moving west at a speed of 15 miles per hour.

It said life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides were possible in Central America and southern Mexico through Tuesday, with the storm expected to bring as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain to isolated areas.

Colombia’s national disaster agency reported on Sunday that Julia blew the roofs of at least five houses and knocked down trees, but no casualties had been reported as it hurtled past San Andres Island east of Nicaragua.

In Nicaragua, authorities have evacuated several thousand people from low-lying coastal areas and warned ships of all types to seek a safe haven. Local news media showed images of fallen trees over roads.

Guillermo González, director of Nicaragua’s Disaster Response System, told official media that high-risk people had been evacuated from coastal areas by noon Saturday. The military said it delivered humanitarian supplies to Bluefields and Laguna de Perlas for distribution to 118 temporary shelters.

In Bluefields, however, life seemed little changed on Saturday night, and people expressed reluctance to leave their homes.

The storm was predicted to rise over the Pacific Ocean and hit the coasts of El Salvador and Guatemala, a region already saturated by weeks of heavy rainfall.

In Guatemala, storms had already caused at least 49 confirmed deaths since early May, with six people missing. Roads and hundreds of homes have been damaged, Guatemalan officials say.

In El Salvador, where 19 people have died this rainy season, the worst rainfall was expected Monday and Tuesday, said Fernando López, the environment and natural resources minister. Officials said they had opened 61 shelters with a capacity of more than 3,000 people.

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