BELIZE CITY Tropical Storm Earl dumped heavy rains on the coast of Honduras as it barreled toward Belize, where it is expected to hit the coast as a hurricane on Wednesday night or early Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Four hundred people have so far been evacuated from the Central American country's northern islands Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, Lionel Cuthkelvin, operations officer at Belize's National Emergency Management Organization, said in a telephone call on Wednesday.
Cuthkelvin said at least 20 shelters were already harboring people, mainly in Belize City, Stann Creek and some villages off the Caribbean coast. Residents of Belize City and other coastal communities were being urged to move inland.
Earl, the fifth named storm of the 2016 season, is expected to bring 8 to 10 inches of rain that could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides in parts of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico through Thursday night, the Miami-based NHC said in an advisory.
Blowing maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (113 km per hour), the storm is about 185 miles (298 km) east-southeast of Belize City, it said.
In eastern Honduras, 88 shipwrecked fishermen were rescued in La Mosquitia, while two are still missing, Luis Florentino, deputy chief of emergency agency COPECO, said in a telephone interview.
Wilmer Guerrero, head of the fire department in the Honduran island of Roatan, said it has shelters to accommodate 500 people but they were not being used yet.
"The tourists are in their hotels, which are safe and solidly built. Here it's the local people that go to the shelters," he said in an interview.
In Mexico, rescue officials in the state of Quintana Roo evacuated about 200 people living in the atolls of Banco Chinchorro and Punta Allen by Tulum, south of Cancun.
Quintana Roo's tourism minister Raul Andrade Angulo said that the 410,000 travelers currently visiting the state would be safe because the region has 788 hurricane shelters for more than 280,000 people, including 55 shelters for tourists.
Red flags were put up on beaches in Cancun to keep tourists in swimming pools and away from the sea.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City, Isela Serrano in Cancun, Alizeh Kohari in Mexico City and Swati Verma and Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang)
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First Published On : Aug 4, 2016 01:47 IST