Tropical Storm Nate kills 10 in Central America, heads for U.S.

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Tropical Storm Nate killed at least 10 people in Central America on Thursday as it pummeled the region with heavy rain while heading towards Mexico’s Caribbean resorts and the U.S. Gulf Coast where it could strike as a hurricane this weekend.

Emergency officials in Costa Rica reported that at least six people were killed due to the lashing rain, including two children. The government declared a state of emergency, closing schools and all other non-essential services.

Highways were closed due to mudslides and power outages were also reported in parts of country, where authorities deployed more than 3,500 soldiers.

In Nicaragua, at least four people died and six others were reported missing amid severe rain, the country’s vice president, Rosario Murillo, told state media.

Officials shut schools due to the rainfall, which the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said could be as much as 20 inches (51 cm) in some isolated areas.

Nate is predicted to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane by the time it hits the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday, NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

At about 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) Nate was some 40 miles (64 km) west-southwest of the Honduran town of Puerto Lempira, moving north-northwest at 10 mph (16 kph), the NHC said.

Blowing maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph), Nate was expected to move across northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras on Thursday and enter the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Thursday night.

U.S. officials from Florida to Texas told residents on Thursday to prepare for the storm. A state of emergency was declared for 29 Florida counties and the city of New Orleans.

In Mississippi, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to release as a precautionary measure 40 million gallons (151 million litres) of acidic water from storage ponds at a Pascagoula waste site.

The release to a drainage bayou is intended to prevent a greater spill during the storm, the EPA said, adding there are no anticipated impacts to the environment.