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Hurricane Rips Through the Caribbean

October 28, 1998| From Associated Press

LA CEIBA, Honduras — Hurricane Mitch cut through the western Caribbean on Tuesday, pummeling coastal Honduras and Belize with driving rain and fierce winds that snapped trees and sent thousands of people fleeing for higher ground. Twelve storm-related deaths were reported.

Honduran President Carlos Flores declared the highest state of alert and sent in troops to evacuate thousands of people from villages on the sparsely populated coast. Thousands more made their way to safer ground on their own.

Most of the population of Belize City fled inland in cars and government buses, while tourists rushed to find ways out of the Mexican resorts of Cancun and Cozumel, where the storm is expected to hit by the end of the week.

The storm's winds dropped from 180 mph to near 155 mph, reducing Mitch to a Category 4 hurricane, one category below the most powerful. However, the 350-mile-wide storm remained very powerful--and dangerous. Mitch's slow speed made the hurricane's path especially unpredictable.

Earlier in the day, when Mitch's 180-mph winds made it a Category 5 storm, the U.S. National Weather Service said only three Atlantic storms were stronger--Gilbert in 1988, Allen in 1980 and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935.

The entire coast of Honduras was under a hurricane warning.

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