Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras declared preventive alerts on Monday as tropical storm "Ernesto" raced closer and could develop into a hurricane in the next few hours.
Mexico's southeastern state of Quintana Roo, home to the country's famed resorts of Cancun, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya, issued a yellow alert as the storm neared its Caribbean coast. ( The state's weather agency has urged residents to remain alert in case the storm strengthens into a hurricane as it moved into the region.
The storm, with winds of 15 kilometers per hour, might develop into a category-1 hurricane and smack into the state's southern and central regions, as well as parts of neighboring Yucatan and Campeche states, according to a local branch of Mexico's National Water Commission.
Meanwhile, Guatemala declared an orange alert, the second most serious after the maximum red alert, in several of its northern states.
It warned Alta Verapaz, Peten and Izabal states of possible river overflow and landslides in mountainous regions caused by heavy rains. It has also sent humanitarian assistance and rescue teams to northern states as a means of prevention.
The tropical storm, moving in from the Atlantic Ocean, has also sparked warnings in Honduras and Nicaragua.
The Honduran disaster prevention agency declared a yellow alert in seven departments, including Gracias a Dios, Colon and Atlantida, Islas de la Bahia, Olancho, Yoro and Cortes.
It said Ernesto was moving westward at 19 kilometers per hour, centered about 290 kilometers east of the northeastern region of Mosquitia.
If Ernesto continues its trajectory, the center of the storm is expected to reach Honduras' coast later Monday, with rains and winds affecting a 100-kilometer area.
Port authorities have restricted navigation of small and medium- sized freight boats as coastal waves may reach 14 feet.
In recent years, tropical storms and hurricanes have claimed dozens of lives and caused widespread damage to infrastructure in Mexico and Central American countries.
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