Nov 6, 2009 10:02 AM by Associated Press

Ida batters Nicaragua, then weakens

Ida weakened back into a tropical storm on Thursday after ripping into Nicaragua's Atlantic coast, destroying homes, damaging schools and downing bridges before losing steam and becoming a tropical storm.

Ida, clocking 75 mph winds, struck land around sunrise in Tasbapauni, about 60 miles northeast of Bluefields.

About 80 percent of homes were destroyed in nearby Karawala, a fishing village of about 100 flimsy, wooden shacks near the mouth of the Rio Grande de Matagalpa, said Nicaragua's National Civil Defense director, Mario Perez.

"There was major damage in the region's infrastructure, such as fallen bridges, damaged schools and government buildings, and electrical transmission towers and telephone service were knocked out," Perez said.

No deaths or injuries have been reported, but Perez said officials are still trying to get information from the region.

The fast-developing storm grew from a tropical depression into a hurricane within little more than a day, then lost power as it stalled over eastern Nicaragua, with winds slowing to 50 mph.

Ida was moving to the northwest at 6 mph and could dump as much as 20 inches of rain in parts as it crosses eastern Nicaragua, with the risk of flash floods and mudslides, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

The storm could also raise coastal water levels by as much as 3 feet above ground level, with dangerous waves.

More than 3,000 people had been evacuated - 800 of those from flimsy, makeshift homes on Corn Island and nearby Little Corn Island, where strong winds damaged about 45 homes, smashed boats, toppled trees and knocked out power. Residents were taken to the port authority building and concrete hotels.

About 2,500 people live on the two islands, which are popular tourist destinations.

Rowena Kandler, owner of the Sunrise Hotel on Corn Island, said many fruit trees on the hotel's 13-acre ranch were damaged.

"We don't have electricity or water," she said. "Everything is on the ground now. Thank God we're alive."

The hotel had two guests who rode out the storm Wednesday night, but Kandler said they left for the airport Thursday morning.




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