by Staff Writers
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico (AFP) Oct 27, 2011
Rina lost some of its fury Thursday but held course for a direct hit on Mexico's popular Caribbean beaches, where authorities ordered tourists and locals out of low-lying areas.
As the tropical storm spun toward the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, locals scrambled to tape up windows and officials hurriedly opened emergency shelters, with palm trees flailing as Rina's powerful gusts began to be felt.
Downgraded from a hurricane earlier Thursday, Rina had maximum winds of 110 kilometers (70 miles) per hour as it spun just 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of Cozumel, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The storm was downgraded just hours before it was expected to come crashing ashore late Thursday or early Friday, near such internationally renowned hotspots of the "Mayan Riviera" as Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, famous for its snow-white sands and turquoise sea.
After passing near or over Mexico's Yucatan, Rina is forecast to weaken as it spins toward Cuba and Florida.
The storm is expected to dump heavy rain in southeastern Mexico where flooding already has left some 200,000 people homeless since last week.
Hundreds of air travelers meanwhile were stranded after Cancun's airport canceled about 40 of its 190 scheduled flights.
"We advise passengers that the Cancun airport does not operate as a shelter, (but nevertheless) request that they stay put until their flights have been confirmed," airport management said in a statement.
In Playa del Carmen, the resort closest to where Rina is likely to make landfall, travelers seemed unfazed as they ventured out-of-doors.
"Tourists are coming to the pier where they are at risk and so we urged them to return to their hotels," an area police officer told AFP.
Local public security chief Gerardo Alanilla said 10 shelters already had 1,700 occupants and said more would be opened if needed.
The NHC's latest bulletin warned people in coastal areas on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula that "preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion."
"A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as one to three feet (30 to 90 centimeters) above normal tide levels along the immediate coast" and some nearby areas, it said.
"The surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves."
The US State Department has warned Americans in the area to consider leaving Mexico, since flights could be disrupted once the storm bears down.
Rina is the sixth hurricane and 17th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.
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Hurricane Rina weakens, holds course for Cancun
Cancun, Mexico (AFP) Oct 26, 2011
Hurricane Rina weakened Wednesday but held its course for a direct hit on Mexico's tourist beaches, where evacuation orders were issued for vulnerable coastal areas. Residents reinforced windows and 1,000 emergency shelters were set up in preparation for Thursday evening when Rina is expected to come crashing ashore over tourist hotspots such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. Cuba ... read more
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