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21 Aug, 2007 14:14

Hurricane Dean down to category Three

Hurricane Dean is travelling over the Yucatan Peninsula, being downgraded to category one. Earlier it has fallen to a category three storm after hitting Majahual, 65 kilometres from the Mexican-Belize border.

But the most intense Atlantic storm to make landfall in two decades is expected to gain strength as it continues its journey across the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm is moving West-Northwest towards the Bay of Campeche. Forecasters are expecting the hurricane to dump up to 50 cm of rain, triggering flash floods.

With winds of around 260 kilometres per hour, Dean has already claimed more than twelve lives in the Eastern Caribbean.

Tens of thousands of tourists have fled Mexican beach resorts as Hurricane Dean continues its devastating journey towards the Yucatan Peninsula.  Although the popular resort of Cancun is forecast to be spared a direct hit, it hasn’t stopped around two-thirds of visitors from leaving. Some even camped at the city's airport to ensure a flight out, while others take it all in their stride. 

The Jamaican capital of Kingston has started a massive clean-up operation. The hurricane lashed the island’s South coast, triggering floods and ripping off roofs leaving some homes destroyed.

After passing Jamaica and the Cayman Islands on Monday, the storm hit warmer waters strengthening to a category five- the highest possible status.

The U.S. National Hurricane Centre predicts the biggest threat is going to be for areas of Northern Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula coast of Mexico.

“The truth is that we've been here in this area for many years. We have had a lot of hurricanes, including Gilberto, Emily and Wilma. And this one, they say, is dangerous but we're ready for it,” Melkiaris Poot, a local resident, says.

In neighbouring Belize authorities are urging residents to leave, saying Dean is too strong for their shelters.

On the American side of the Gulf of Mexico, cities along the coast are also battening down.