US states declare emergency ahead as killer Tropical Storm Nate gains force
Tropical Storm Nate gained force as it sped toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula after drenching Central America in rain that was blamed for at least 21 deaths.
Forecasters said it was likely to reach the US Gulf Coast as a hurricane over the weekend and Louisiana and Mississippi officials have declared states of state of emergency.
Louisiana has ordered some people to evacuate coastal areas and barrier islands ahead of its expected landfall on Saturday night or early Sunday, and evacuations have begun at some offshore oil platforms in the Gulf.
Mississippi's government said it would open 11 evacuation shelters in areas away from the immediate coast, with buses available for people who are not able to drive.
The US National Hurricane Centre warned that Nate could raise sea levels by 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 metres) from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) by Friday afternoon and was likely to strengthen over the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Friday before brushing by the Cancun region at the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
Authorities cancelled Friday afternoon classes in parts of Mexico's Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo, where Cozumel and Cancun are located.
Govenor Carlos Joaquin said it appeared the storm would stay well offshore and not hit land, adding "that, I believe, is good news".
In Nicaragua, Nate's arrival followed two weeks of near-constant rain that had left the ground saturated and rivers swollen.
Authorities placed the whole country on alert and warned of flooding and landslides.
Nicaragua's vice president and spokeswoman Rosario Murillo said that at least 15 people had died due to the storm.
She did not give details on all the deaths, but said two women and a man who worked for the Health Ministry were swept away by a flooded canal in the central municipality of Juigalpa.
Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Department blamed seven deaths in that country on the storm and said 15 people were missing as flooding drove 5,000 residents into emergency shelters.
In Honduras, there were three dead and three missing, according to Oscar Triminio, spokesman for the country's firefighters.
Damage caused by the storm prompted Costa Rican officials to postpone a World Cup qualifying soccer match between that country and Honduras, which had been scheduled for Friday night.