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Hurricane Hits Caribbean Island as Nicaragua Braces

United Press International

Hurricane Joan, with winds swirling up to 125 m.p.h., flattened houses and toppled trees on the Colombian resort island of San Andres on Friday and triggered flooding in Panama, killing at least two people, as it bore down on the east coast of Central America.

Ham radio operators on San Andres, the Colombian island 185 miles off Nicaragua, reported that dozens of people were injured by the storm, according to Bogota-based Radio Caracol. But there were no reports of any deaths at the resort.

Joan, which was expected to hit Nicaragua this morning, killed 36 people, left 50 missing and 100,000 homeless earlier in the week when it struck Colombia’s mainland.

The hurricane, which resumed its trek west Thursday night after stalling for 18 hours, dumped torrential rains on Panama about 200 miles south of the eye of the storm Friday, triggering mudslides and sending rivers spilling out of their banks.

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Flooding was blamed for two drownings--one in the eastern province of Veraguas and one in the Pacific province of Herrera--and 100 people were left homeless by high water and landslides, said Argelia Alverado, a spokeswoman for Panama’s System for Civil Protection

Flooding made the Pan-American Highway linking North America to South America impassable, and Alverado said difficulty with communications in the stricken regions means that other deaths and serious injuries cannot be ruled out.

The ham radio operators on San Andres said the hurricane flattened hundreds of wooden houses, uprooted trees, knocked out power and flooded streets.

“Navy personnel are strategically located for rescue operations, but I am afraid our wooden houses might not take the force of wind and waves,” Island Gov. Hidalgo May said by radio telephone as the first effects of the hurricane hit the resort.

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Heavy swells of up to 13 feet were reported on the east coasts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Friday evening as Joan’s winds increased to 125 m.p.h.

Thousands have fled inland in the region, hit by only two hurricanes this century--Hurricane Martha, which struck the northern coast of Panama in 1969, and Hurricane Irene, which hit southern Nicaragua in 1971.


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