MANAGUA, Nicaragua — After leaving at least 45 people dead in Colombia and Venezuela, Hurricane Joan sent thousands of people fleeing for safety Thursday as it inched toward Central America's eastern coastline with heavy rains and 105-m.p.h. winds.
Clinging stubbornly to a due-westerly course far south of the Caribbean's traditional storm paths, the hurricane forced authorities in Nicaragua and Costa Rica to close schools and hospitals in preparation for rare national emergencies. The storm was expected to strike their coasts Saturday after passing over Colombia's San Andres islands, according to forecasters here.
A total of 34 people were killed and at least 50,000 left homeless when the storm swept Colombia's Guajira Peninsula on Tuesday, according to the Colombian Red Cross.
In Caracas, Venezuela, mudslides and downpours in the hurricane's wake engulfed wooden huts built precariously on cliffs, killing 11 people Wednesday night and early Thursday.