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Tsunami warnings issued as hurricane and earthquake hit Central America at same time

The earthquake led to a tsunami warning being issued in El Salvador.

A FIERCE HURRICANE and a powerful offshore earthquake struck Central America at the same time today, triggering emergency responses in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica.

Hurricane Otto, a storm packing winds of 175 kilometers per hour hit first, hitting Nicaragua’s southern Caribbean coast.

Regions in that zone and in northern neighboring Costa Rica were evacuated ahead of it. There were no immediate reports of any deaths.

Just an hour later came the earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.0 and located 120 kilometers off El Salvador in the Pacific Ocean, on the other side of Central American . It was felt also in Nicaragua’s capital Managua and in Costa Rica.

While there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the temblor, El Salvador and Nicaragua issued a tsunami alert for their Pacific coasts, and El Salvador ordered all people in the zone to get to safety.

Hurricane

Faced with a hurricane and possible tsunami, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared a national emergency, a step Costa Rica had already taken ahead of Hurricane Otto.

The storm was expected to chew its way along a broad swathe of territory on both sides of the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border into Friday, losing strength as it went.

But the US National Hurricane Center warned Otto’s trailing rains “will likely result in life-threatening flash floods and mudslides”.

A previous, far-stronger hurricane, Matthew, devastated parts of southern Haiti early last month, killing 546 people and leaving nearly 175,000 homeless.

Offshore quake

The strong earthquake on the other side of the region came as the hurricane was making its way west.

It occurred at a depth of 10.3 kilometers (6.4 miles), according to the US Geological Survey — sufficiently shallow to spark fears in the Salvadoran government of a possible tsunami.

“All protection mechanisms have been activated under which we have started evacuations,” the minister in charge of the emergency response, Aristides Valencia, said on state radio.

Officials were scrambling to evaluate the impact of the quake. The task was made more difficult because some telephone lines in the capital San Salvador were cut.

People ran out of dozens of buildings in the city in panic, fearing aftershocks.

- © AFP, 2016

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