BELIZE CITY: Tropical Storm Lisa slowed on Thursday after making landfall in Belize, causing flooding and plunging parts of the country into darkness as it churned westwards toward Mexico. Both Mexico and Belize dropped their coastal tropical storm warnings as the former hurricane weakened and headed west at 10 miles per hour (16 kilometers per hour), according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.
Forecasters warned that the tourist-popular coast of Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula should continue monitoring the situation as the maximum sustained winds decreased to around 45 mph (75 kph). For the next day or so, the storm system is expected to pack a gusty punch and deliver heavy rain, swells and flash flooding to northern Guatemala and southeastern Mexico, further weakening as it moves inland.
Lisa slammed into the Sibun River just southwest of economic hub and former capital Belize City around 2120 GMT on Wednesday, uprooting trees, downing power lines and inundating streets. "It's very dangerous for us" because in Belize "it floods quickly, even with moderate rain," Jasmin Ayuso, a 21-year-old secretary, told AFP. A state of emergency was declared in two areas, while a curfew was in effect until dawn on Thursday.
Some parts of Belize were left without power as the storm lashed the country of about 405,000 people. "BEL is aware of power outages affecting several areas of the country," the utility wrote on Facebook. "We assure the public that our teams are taking note of the reports of damages to the power system, including fallen power lines and poles."
Schools and most businesses were closed in anticipation of the storm and the government set up several shelters. In Belize City and neighboring areas, local media showed weather-battered buildings, flooded streets and yanked out trees after Lisa landed. The storm is forecast to be further downgraded to a tropical depression by the end of the day before dissipating over Mexico.
Evacuations in Guatemala
The NHC said Lisa could drop up to 10 inches (250 millimetres) of rain in some areas of Belize, northern Guatemala and several states in southern Mexico. The Yucatan Peninsula, Honduras' Bay Islands and other areas of Central America were forecast to receive up to six inches of rain. In Guatemala, heavy rain caused flooding and landslides in the northernmost department Peten on the border with Belize.
About 143 people were evacuated and 48 remain in a shelter, Oscar Cossio, secretary of the National Coordination for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), told a press conference. Schools in the north canceled classes. Lisa arrives not even three weeks after the passage of Julia, another Category 1 hurricane, which caused dozens of deaths in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Lisa is the 12th named storm this season, a designation given to systems that produce winds of 39 mph (63 kph) or greater, according to the NHC. Last year's active Atlantic hurricane season, which officially runs from June through November, saw 21 named storms. - AFP