Tens of thousands of people have fled low-lying areas of the Central American coast as Hurricane Felix bears down on the region. The storm has been downgraded slightly and is now rated as category four, but forecasters are warning it is still “extremely dangerous”. Moving westwards at 33 kilometres an hour, Felix is expected to hit the coast later today.
Experts say it will then cross Northern Honduras, southern Belize, northern Guatemala and southern Mexico. It is following the same path as Hurricane Mitch in 1998 which killed nearly 11 000 people mostly in Honduras and Nicaragua. In Belize, queues formed at petrol stations as residents stocked up on emergency supplies and prepared to ride out the storm. Hundreds of tourists have also been airlifted from airports.
Meanwhile, residents started boarding up windows as the weather worsened. Stores began to run out of plywood and the sale of alcohol was banned. A category four storm is capable of major damage and flooding. Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the US city of New Orleans in 2005, was classed as category three.