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Hurricane Gains Strength, Hits Nicaragua Coast

Beta, which pounded Colombia's Providencia Island, may be further upgraded to Category 3.

October 30, 2005|From Times Wire Services

PUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua — Hurricane Beta gained strength and struck Nicaragua's coast Saturday night after lashing the Colombian island of Providencia with harsh wind, heavy rain and high surf.

Whipping up 105-mph winds, Beta was upgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, and forecasters warned that it could be even stronger by the time it hits the mainland near the Nicaraguan-Honduran border early today.

With the storm already battering this normally sleepy fishing town, officials feared there was not enough safe space for its 50,000 residents.

"We are prepared with food, we are prepared with medicines, with rescue soldiers, but we do not have the space to shelter thousands of people," Nicaraguan Defense Minister Avil Ramirez said.

"I'm very frightened about the arrival of the storm," said Douglas Marin, 13, who lives in an old wooden shack.

Beta, the record 13th hurricane of this year's Atlantic storm season, pummeled Providencia late Friday, tearing roofs off wooden homes and prompting hundreds of people to move to brick shelters in the highlands. Electricity and telephone service were knocked out on the Manhattan-sized island, home to 5,000 people.

Colombian Social Welfare Minister Diego Palacio said that several houses and a popular tourist footbridge were damaged, but that there was little flooding.

Phones and power remained out on the island, a former pirate outpost inhabited mostly by English-speaking descendants of slaves. It lies 125 miles off the Nicaraguan coast.

The National Hurricane Center in Florida said Honduras and Nicaragua could get 10 to 15 inches of rain, with isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches possible. A Category 3 storm can cause extensive damage.

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