Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hurricane Keith Slams Belize Homes Smashed, Areas Flooded

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hurricane Keith Slams Belize Homes Smashed, Areas Flooded

Article excerpt

BELIZE CITY, Belize -- Hurricane Keith toppled homes, ripped the roofs off hotels and caused flooding throughout Belize as it swirled just off the country's Caribbean coast yesterday with 75 mph winds.

Flooding associated with Keith caused three deaths elsewhere in Central America and at least one in Mexico, but the worst damage came in Belize, where streets were flooded with more than a dozen inches of rain that had fallen since Sunday.

No deaths or injuries were reported in Belize. But a Red Cross official said reports over a cellular phone indicated considerable damage on the storm-ravaged island of Ambergris Cay, which lies roughly in the storm's path about 12 miles off Belize's coast.

"In two hotels, the roofs were torn off and the people had to run for shelter," said William Skeen, director of the Red Cross in Belize City. "They are in a serious situation out there."

More than 200 Belize citizens sought refuge in neighboring Guatemala yesterday. They were allowed into the country under emergency visas.

Keith, which was born Friday in the Caribbean off Honduras, was located about 30 miles east-northeast of Belize City and had started to drift north yesterday evening. Forecasters said the current drift could bring the center over northern Belize within a few hours.

The storm has weakened steadily since it peaked as a Category 3 hurricane Sunday, but it continued to punish the region.

On Caye Caulker, a slip of land 10 miles south of Ambergris, radio stations reported that 40 wooden homes had blown over. Radio stations also featured a constant stream of reports of roofs blown off in Belize City.

Residents of Belize's capital -- bent over in raincoats, their umbrellas flipped inside-out -- pushed bicycles through knee-deep water and battled the raging winds and horizontal sheets of rain.

The hurricane blew water from bays and shallow coasts on Sunday, allowing people to walk across exposed seabed. …

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