Hurricane Dean roars towards Mexico

Tourists in Cancun are evacuated as dangerous category five hurricane Dean heads towards Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula at more than 240 kilometers per hour. Earlier it caused havoc in Jamaica claiming at least 12 lives. Jamaican authorities have declared a s

The category 4 storm is gusting at up to 150 miles-per-hour and still growing in strength as it nears the coast of Mexico.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Dean could worsen to a potentially catastrophic category 5 over the next 24 hours.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for the coast of Belize and the east coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, all the way to the popular tourist destination of Cancun.

Hurricane Dean approaches Mexico, photo
Hurricane Dean approaches Mexico, photo

The latest computer tracking models forecast the hurricane could spare the U.S. Gulf Coast, but slam into the Yucatan, across the Bay of Campeche, and then hit central Mexico.

Residents in Jamaica have been spared the worst as the eye of the storm passed just south of the holiday island.  However, Jamaica's Prime Minister has declared a month-long state of emergency.

On the Mexican coast, beach resorts are largely devoid of tourists after the province's mayor asked tour operators to stop bringing people until the hurricane passes. Thousands of foreign nationals have been flown out of the country.

Authorities are also evacuating people from low-lying islands on the Caribbean coast.

Supermarket shelves are running out of essential supplies as residents desperately prepare for the onslaught. 

Meanwhile, the storm has also had an impact in space. It has forced the NASA shuttle Endeavour to leave the International Space Station (ISS) a day earlier than planned. There is a small risk the storm may veer towards Houston in Texas, home to mission control. As a precaution NASA wants Endeavour to land on Tuesday.

Before the shuttle undocked from the ISS, the crew made one last inspection to make sure it was safe for re-entry. The Endeavour suffered damage to its heat shield on take-off, but after scans, NASA decided repairs were not necessary.

The latest predictions from the U.S. meteorological office say Hurricane Dean will not hit land on the American side of the Gulf of Mexico. That, however, has not stopped cities along the coast from making preparations. The governor of the state of Texas has urged caution in case the violent storm changes course.