Rina becomes hurricane off Honduras, boat missing

AP News
Posted: Oct 24, 2011 6:54 PM
Rina becomes hurricane off Honduras, boat missing

Hurricane Rina formed Monday off Central America's Caribbean coast and officials in Nicaragua launched a search for a missing Navy boat with 27 people aboard that had been trying to evacuate coastal residents.

Rina quickly built into a Category 1 hurricane off Honduras' coast with top winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and was expected to strengthen further, perhaps reaching windspeeds of 120 mph (195 kph) or more later in the week as it takes aim on Mexico's Caribbean coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Monday.

Rina was centered about 190 miles (310 kilometers) northeast of the coastal city of Trujillo, Honduras and was moving west-northwest at about 5 mph (8 kph).

In neighboring Nicaragua, the air force launched an aerial search Monday for a navy boat that disappeared late Sunday while trying to evacuate residents from the low-lying coastal village of Sandy Bay, near the Honduran border.

Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua's first lady and secretary of communications, told a local radio station that the boat was carrying four crew members, 12 male passengers, 10 female passengers and a child when officials lost radio contact with the open boat late Sunday.

The boats disappeared when Rina was still not yet a hurricane but had already begun causing rain in the area.

Rina was expected to make a turn to the north midweek and take aim on the Mexican resort of Cancun, possibly hitting in or near the Caribbean resort by Friday.

Officials in Cancun started preparations for storm shelters and potential evacuations, if needed.

"Hotel operators, the civil defense department, tourism and public safety authorities are taking the necessary measures for shelters, transportation and providing information for tourists, obviously with generating alarm that could create a panic," said Cancun Tourism Director Maximo Garcia.

Cancun civil defense director Felix Diaz Villalobos said officials would begin meeting tonight to begin drawing up emergency plans.