Tropical Storm Ida batters Nicaraguan island |

Tropical Storm Ida batters Nicaraguan island

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) – Tropical Storm Ida uprooted trees, knocked down power lines and forced the evacuation of 300 people on Nicaragua’s Corn Island after forming Wednesday and quickly gaining strength in the southwestern Caribbean.

The storm was threatening to become a hurricane before making landfall in Nicaragua early Thursday morning.

Heavy rains and winds already pounded the popular resort of Corn Island, knocking down trees, electrical lines and telephone poles. Much of the island had lost and phone service, said Lt. Col. Reinaldo Carrion, the civil defense chief in Bluefields, the city nearest to the island.

Some 300 people were evacuated from poorly constructed, mostly wooden homes, Carrion said. They spent the night in offices of the port authority, the navy and some hotels.

“Fixed telephone lines are out, and cell phone and radio communication is difficult, so we don’t have a lot of information,” he told The Associated Press.

Ton Bos, owner of the Paraiso Beach Hotel on Corn Island, said winds and rain were heavy, but he had seen worse.

“There is a lot of rain, a lot of wind and some trees are coming down, but it’s not a catastrophe,” Bos told AP by cellular phone. “I’ve been here four years and it’s been worse than this.”

“I’ll sleep very well tonight,” he said.

Ida’s maximum sustained winds were at 65 mph (100 kph) late Wednesday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. The center said further strengthening was expected and the storm could become a hurricane before making landfall early Thursday.

The hurricane center warned of possible life-threatening flash flood and mudslides, saying storm could dump 15 to 20 inches (40 to 50 centimeters) of rain over eastern Nicaragua.

The ninth named storm of the Atlantic season was centered about 50 miles (85 kilometers) east of Bluefields and moving northwest near 7 mph (11 kph).

A hurricane watch was in effect for the eastern coast of Nicaragua from Bluefields to the border with Honduras.