Tropical Storm Matthew threatens flooding for Central America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaragua began evacuating people from the path of Tropical Storm Matthew on the Caribbean coast as the storm threatened to drench a Central American region prone to disastrous flooding.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Matthew was about 80 miles (125 kilometers) southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaraguan-Honduran border at midday Friday with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph).

The storm was expected to hit land later Friday, and the Hurricane Center said it could bring 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) of rain to already soggy Nicaragua and Honduras, with the possibility of flash floods and mud slides. A tropical storm watch also was in effect for the coast of Belize.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega ordered the preventive measures and "all emergency structures are on alert," Lt. Col. Freddy Herrera told The Associated Press by telephone. "We have evacuated people from the region of Cabo Gracias a Dios and the Miskito Cays" in the same region.

Flights into the area were suspended due to limited visibility, though the winds are moderate, the military said.

In Honduras, the government declared a state of preventive alert throughout the country.

Meanwhile far out over the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Lisa was drifting slowly northwest with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph (75 kph).