President Luis Guillermo Solís ordered a halt to non-essential government services on Thursday and Friday, ahead of the landfall in Costa Rica of Hurricane Otto expected to occur Thursday morning.
At a press conference at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Solís declared a national state of emergency and said that only public offices that will be involved in emergency tasks will remain open. That includes public hospitals, police stations, fire stations and courts, among others.
“I also recommend that private companies take all measures they deem necessary to safeguard their employees,” the president said at the National Emergency Commission (CNE) in San José.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Public Education Ministry ordered the cancellation of classes at all public schools across the country; many private schools followed suit. All public universities also agreed to suspend classes until next week.
National Meteorological Institute (IMN) Director Juan Carlos Fallas said that Hurricane Otto was about 300 kilometers east of Puerto Limón on Wednesday evening, and that it will make landfall through the border area between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in the Caribbean.
Fallas said Otto will take nearly 36 hours to cross the country and that it will likely become a tropical storm as soon as it enters the Pacific Ocean.
IMN forecasts state Otto will hit Costa Rica’s territory with winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour.
Read our complete Hurricane Otto coverage here.
Track Hurricane Otto’s path in real time:
Solís also announced that the Red Emergency Alert is now extended to nine more cantons following IMN forecasts that these areas will see heavy rainfall levels in the following hours.
“I strongly recomend that people avoid taking their cars out starting Thursday evening. Strong gusts can blow vehicles, and that might lead to crashes on roads within the emergency alert areas,” the president said.
This is the full list by province of cantons and communities now under Red Alert:
In Limón: Delta Costa Rica, Calero, Las Barras, Tortuguero, Parismina, Boca Pacuare, Pococí, Matina, Guácimo, Siquirres.
In Alajuela: Toro Amarillo, Río Cuarto, Los Chiles, Upala, San Carlos, Orotina, Guatuso, Grecia, Zarcero, Valverde Vega, Naranjo, San Ramón.
In Puntarenas: Montes de Oro, Esparza, San Mateo, Garabito, Parrita, Quepos, and Puntarenas Central.
In Heredia: Sarapiquí.
In Guanacaste: La Cruz.
In San José: Pérez Zeledón.
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