Tropical storm Nate
has killed 22 people in the Central American nations of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras
as it battered the region with heavy rain ahead of hitting the US mainland later this week, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
A state of emergency was declared in the three countries where more than 20 people were also missing. The storm caused heavy rains, landslides and floods which blocked roads, destroyed bridges and damaged houses, BBC reported.
In Costa Rica, at least eight people were killed in the storm while nearly 400,000 were without running water. Thousands were sleeping in shelters. Another 11 died in Nicaragua where as much as 38 cm of rain had been predicted to fall by the NHC.
Three people were killed in Honduras, including two youths who drowned in a river, and several were reported missing. One man was reportedly killed in a mudslide in El Salvador, according to emergency services.
In Costa Rica, all train journeys were suspended and dozens of flights cancelled on Thursday. More than a dozen national parks popular with tourists had been closed. The storm also caused extensive damage to infrastructure in Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo advised people to be cautious. "Sometimes we think we think we can cross a river and the hardest thing to understand is that we must wait," he said on state radio. "It's better to be late than not to get there at all."
Forecasters said the storm will gain strength and become a category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall on the southern coast of the US on Sunday.
Residents from Florida
were told to prepare for the storm, which, if it does strike, it might be the third major storm to hit the southern coast this year.
Additionally, offshore oil and gas operators evacuated personnel from six of the 737 manned oil and natural gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.