Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Keith Hits Belize, Mexico's Yucatan at Least 2 Dead as Hurricane Drifts Inland

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Keith Hits Belize, Mexico's Yucatan at Least 2 Dead as Hurricane Drifts Inland

Article excerpt

CHETUMAL, Mexico -- Coastal residents of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula and northeastern Belize fled their homes yesterday as the dangerous core of Hurricane Keith came ashore, bringing strong wind and torrential rain.

Heavy rain and flooding throughout Central America caused at least two deaths and forced hundreds to be evacuated. Scores abandoned their homes in coastal Mexico and houses were toppled in Belize.

The slow-moving storm lost strength lasty evening as it drifted inland, with winds dropping to 115 mph from a high of 135 mph. It was expected to further weaken today, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters warned of flash floods and mud slides as heavy rain fell throughout Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, where a rain-swollen river swept away a 16-year-old boy yesterday. Officials there evacuated more than 300 people from low-lying areas.

In El Salvador, a 20-year-old man drowned in a river Saturday, officials said.

Hurricane Keith was virtually stationary yesterday evening, centered about 50 miles south-southeast of Chetumal and about 40 miles east-northeast of Belize City. The storm was about 944 miles south-southwest of Jacksonville.

The Belizean villages of San Pedro and Caye Caulker were among the hardest hit, Red Cross officials said. Winds clocked at 120 mph blew roofs off homes and demolished makeshift shelters.

"The situation is pretty rough out there right now," said William Skeen, director of the Red Cross in Belize City. "People really are in a frightened state at this time."

The U.S. government issued a travel warning to Americans in Belize because of extensive flooding, the State Department said. Peace Corps volunteers and U.S. government employees in non-emergency jobs were moved out.

Mexican authorities set up 300 shelters and evacuated 6,000 people from high-risk areas in the Chetumal region, about 190 miles south of Cancun.

Many residents seemed to take the weather in stride; families waded through streets flooded with ankle-deep water. Others rode bikes through the pounding rain and old men drank coffee on a covered sidewalk. …

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