US oil rigs evacuated as Tropical Storm Nate approaches Gulf Coast

6 October 2017, 20:54

Dozens of offshore oil and gas platforms and drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have been evacuated as Tropical Storm Nate approaches the US.

The storm, which has already killed 22 people in Central America, has forced the evacuation of more than 60 platforms and drilling rigs as of late Friday morning local time.

Five rigs operating in the Gulf have been evacuated, while 11 other rigs have been moved out of Nate's path.

It comes as a hurricane warning was issued for a stretch of the US Gulf Coast, ranging from Louisiana to the Alabama-Florida border.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, said residents in those states should be ready for possible storm surges as Tropical Storm Nate is expected to strengthen.

The storm had been heading towards Mexico's Yucatan peninsula but changed its path on Friday morning, meaning it is now only expected to skim tourist hotspots such as Cancun.

The centre said Nate was blowing maximum sustained winds of 50mph and was about 125 miles southeast of the Mexican holiday island of Cozumel early on Friday afternoon.

Forecasters have warned that the storm, after crossing open water, could hit the northern rim of the US Gulf Coast as a category one hurricane.

Alabama, Florida and Mississippi have all declared states of emergency.

There is expected to be six to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) of rain in parts of Honduras and Nicaragua, two to four inches (5 to 10 cm) of rain in eastern Yucatan and western Cuba and three to six inches (8 to 15 inches) of rain in the US central Gulf Coast as Nate makes its way north.

As of Friday afternoon, Nate was moving northwest at 21mph, a fast pace that, if maintained, means the storm would reach land before it is at its strongest.

The storm hit Central America with heavy rains on Thursday, killing at least 11 people in Nicaragua, eight in Costa Rica, two in Honduras and one in El Salvador.

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes and a state of emergency was declared in Costa Rica, closing schools and all other non-essential services.

President Luis Guillermo Solis declared three days of mourning and urged people to remain vigilant into the weekend, noting more rain was likely.

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