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Hurricane Richard sputters over Belize, heads toward Mexico

Hurricane Richard did no major damage to Belize as it weakened into a tropical storm. It is moving into southeastern Mexico.

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"Our windows are shuttered so we can't see anything, but the wind is howling fiercely," said Myrna Harris, who moved all her guests and furniture to the second floor of the hotel she runs in Belize City.

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Heavy winds doubled over palm trees on Belize's coast, webcam images showed, and residents called a local radio station to report power outages and plead for help as rivers quickly rose.

Before the storm touched land, hotels across southern Belize sent foreign travelers to inland shelters, the national tourism board said.

Belize, a former British colony, is a popular destination for foreign tourists who are drawn to its lush jungles, palm-fringed cays and coral reef.
Richard threatened to cause floods and mudslides as it crossed through northern Guatemala, though the head of the country's coffee growers' association said the coffee crop would probably not be affected.

Mexico evacuated residents from Mayan villages on the Yucatan peninsula where many of the poor live in thatched huts.

Richard knocked down trees and power lines on the islands off Honduras' north coast, whose white sandy beaches are popular with foreign tourists.
Honduras' coffee crop will likely not be affected by the storm, said Dagoberto Suazo, a board member of the country's national coffee institute.
Honduran authorities said electricity had been knocked out in some areas and mudslides had cut off dozens of villages.

"Thank God we don't have any serious damage or deaths or injuries," said Lizandro Rosales, head of Honduras' emergency services committee.

Richard was the 10th hurricane of the busy 2010 Atlantic storm season. Five of those hurricanes have been major, but the United States has escaped a significant landfall so far.

(Writing and additional reporting by Jason Lange in Mexico City; Further reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Miguel Angel Gutierrez and Robert Campbell in Mexico City and Sarah Grainger in Guatemala City; Editing by Eric Beech)
2010-10-25 10:02:14 GMT (Reuters)