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National alert due to tropical storm Matthew | Sep 24, 2010

Cinthia Membreño

Since yesterday, Thursday, September 23rd, Nicaragua has a green and yellow alert due to the impact of the tropical storm Matthew. According to what the national media reported, president Daniel Ortega explained - during two press conferences - that the government is ready to face this natural phenomenon, which hit Cabo Gracias a Dios this afternoon.

The evacuations started in the city of Puerto Cabezas (Bilwi), located in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN), before the alerts were even ordered. According to El Nuevo Diario, Guillermo Espinoza Duarte, major of the city, decided to activate an emergency committee because it had already started to rain and the sea was agitated.

Also, the Municipal Committee for Prevention of Disasters (Comupred), from Bilwi, began evacuating those areas highly vulnerable to natural disasters. Similarly, maritime navigation was suspended and a governmental committee was sent to the Miskito Cays to convince fishermen to be evacuated to safe areas, in order to prevent deaths.

In addition, La Prensa reported that the storm approached RAAN with 26 mph winds in the early hours of Thursday night, but when it was at 615 kilometers away from Bilwi, it had maximum winds of 65 mph.

President Ortega said, during the press conferences, that the arrival of Matthew could cause flooding, landslides in mountainous areas and the growth of water level in lakes Managua and Nicaragua. Today, there were floods in the city of Tipitapa as the level of the river of the same name and Lake Managua increased significantly.

The national alerts correspond to the vulnerability level of the areas affected by the storm. The yellow alert was applied to the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and indicates that public and private institutions must prepare the conditions for an imminent disaster. On the other hand, the green - which was applied to the rest of the country - means that the whole nation must be informed about a phenomenon that threatens the country and prepared for a worse situation.

President Ortega advised its citizens to remain calm and act with responsability. This means that citizens must respect the calls of the National System for Prevention, Mitigation and Attention of Disasters (SINAPRED) when evacuations are ordered in both the immediate impact zone of the storm and the surrounding areas.