Hurricane Lisa menaces Central America


BELIZE CITY, Belize - The Central American country of Belize was on high alert Wednesday for the passage of Hurricane Lisa, with warnings of devastating winds, downpours and flash floods also affecting Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

A vehicle and pedestrians make their way through a street flooded due to heavy rains before the arrival of Hurricane Lisa in Belize City on November 2,2022. The northern part of Central America was on high alert Wednesday for the passage of Hurricane Lisa, with warnings of devastating winds, downpours and flash floods also affecting Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued a hurricane warning for the coast of Belize and the Yucatan stretching from Chetumal to Puerto Costa Maya.


Lisa was headed westward in the Caribbean Sea at a speed of 22 kilometers (14 miles) per hour with maximum sustained winds of 130 kmh (80 mph) and even higher gusts, said the NHC in an advisory updated at 1800 GMT.


Some strengthening was possible before the Category 1 hurricane makes landfall in Belize, with rapid weakening as Lisa then moves inland, it added.


The NHC said somewhat less intense tropical storm conditions were predicted for the north coast of Honduras and the Bay Islands, northern Guatemala and the Yucatan coast north of Costa Maya, though still with strong winds and rains.


Downpours could cause flash flooding conditions across Belize into northern Guatemala and parts of southeast Mexico, the advisory said.


"A storm surge will likely raise water levels by as much as 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 meters) above normal tide levels near and to the north of where the center of Lisa crosses the coast of Belize and extreme southeastern portions of the Yucatan Peninsula," said the center.

- 'Not safe' -

It also warned swells could cause "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions" in parts of Central America in the coming day or two.


Honduras's Center for Atmospheric, Oceanographic and Seismic Studies (CENAOS) issued a red alert for the Bay Islands, though the NHC update said Lisa would be a tropical storm and no longer a hurricane by the time she arrives there.


Ronnie Mcnab, mayor of the largest of the islands and a major tourist draw, Roatan, declared a state of emergency that allowed for classes to be suspended and schools to be turned into shelters.


He urged people to stock up on food and guests not to leave their hotels for 36 hours, and ordered the shuttering of all shops but pharmacies and petrol stations.


In Belize, the government declared a red alert for coastal areas and closed schools, while in Guatemala and El Salvador -- expecting lesser though still severe impacts -- the authorities were on alert.


Many residents were fearful of losing everything they own in Belize.


With many homes close to the coast and prone to flooding even with little rain, Belize City resident Jasmin Ayuso, 21 told AFP it was hard to "imagine a hurricane with winds and so on with a lot of rain."


"There are people who don't have houses that are well insured and so there is the fear of flooding and much damage."


Lisa arrives not even three weeks after the passage of Julia, another Category 1 hurricane, which caused dozens of deaths in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.