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HURRICANES FELIX AND HENRIETTE

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Bianca
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« on: September 03, 2007, 04:35:43 pm »








                                        Honduras, Nicaragua brace for Hurricane Felix fury






by Noe Leiva

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) - Honduras and Nicaragua braced for the worst and ordered thousands of evacuations as Hurricane Felix barreled toward Central America on Monday with winds topping 230 kilometers (145 miles) per hour.
 
Authorities in the two countries, as well as aid organizations, readied for a potential disaster as the approaching storm rekindled memories of the devastation wrought in 1998 by Mitch, one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes in history.

Thousands of people along the Caribbean coast of Honduras and Nicaragua were ordered to head to safer ground, and residents in other areas were told to pack emergency supplies in case of flooding or mudslides.

Several hundred tourists were also evacuated aboard boats and planes from the Honduran islands of Roatan and Guanaja, which are popular with scuba divers.

Marco Burgos, who heads the emergency management agency Copeco, warned Honduras needed to brace for the worst.

"The option is for people to find a place where they may be protected, there is no longer any other option: you have to protect your lives and those of your families," said Obed Escalon, a forecaster with the Honduran weather service.

Felix looked set to slam ashore near the Honduran-Nicaraguan border on Tuesday morning.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he was cutting short a visit to Panama, to lead emergency efforts. He ordered the release of funds to finance the operations.

UN officials as well as non-governmental organizations also stood ready to assist in recovery efforts.

"This hurricane has the potential to cause major devastation to Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala," said Allen Clinton, a spokesman for the CARE humanitarian assistance group.

Carlos Scaramella, the World Food Program representative in San Salvador, said the UN agency had sufficient food stocks to feed 100,000 people for the first five days of an emergency.

Forecasters expected the hurricane to travel inland fairly close to the Honduran shoreline, emerge in the Bay of Honduras, make landfall in Belize on Wednesday morning and continue inland to Guatemala.

This could spell disaster for the central American region where Hurricane Mitch left more than 9,000 people dead and as many missing in 1998.

Many of the areas threatened by the storm's fury are impoverished and highly vulnerable to floods and mudslides.

At 1800 GMT, the center of Felix was located 490 kilometers (305 miles) east of Nicaragua's border with Honduras.

The storm dropped to category four, one notch from the topmost category five intensity, but NHC forecasters said at 1800 GMT it remained extremely dangerous and could regain its punch before it slams ashore.

Felix had strengthened from category two to five in a record 15 hours on Sunday.

Over the weekend, the hurricane damaged homes and downed power lines in Grenada, and lashed Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao with heavy winds, though there were no immediate reports of casualties.

It also caused the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to cut short one of its regular data-collection flights over the hurricane, the Miami Herald reported.

The modified Orion P-3 aircraft was caught in a rapid updraft-downdraft cycle that subjected the crew to four times the force of gravity.

Meanwhile, Mexico braced for a hit on its Pacific coast as Tropical Storm Henriette looked set to strengthen into a hurricane as it barreled toward the Baja California peninsula, which is dotted with tourist resorts.

The storm had already been blamed for seven deaths as rains that drenched the Mexican shoreline caused several mudslides.

Last month, Mexico was already battered by Hurricane Dean, this year's first, which had also reached intensity five during its deadly rampage.

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