Richard aims for Belize, seen becoming hurricane

* Richard expected to hit Belize as hurricane later Sunday

* Remnants could reach oil platforms in Gulf of Mexico

* Central American coffee, sugar producers at risk

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA, Oct 24 (BestGrowthStock) – Tropical Storm Richard
dumped rain on Honduras on Sunday and was seen becoming a
hurricane before hitting Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula
later in the day.

Richard had top sustained winds near 70 miles per hour (110
kph) and was expected to barrel through southern Mexico and
emerge in Mexico’s oil-rich Bay of Campeche on Tuesday as a
tropical depression, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

At 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), the storm was about 25 miles (40
km) east of Isla Guanaja, Honduras, after brushing past the
remote Miskito coast region where indigenous groups live in
wooden houses along rivers vulnerable to flooding.

The hurricane center said the storm was a relatively small
tropical cyclone, but becoming better organized.

Richard, the 17th named storm in the Atlantic this year,
might eventually veer north toward U.S. oil and natural gas
production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, according to
forecasts by some computer weather models.

Honduran authorities said they were evacuating residents
and tourists from several coastal areas.

“(We will) evacuate between 3,000 and 4,000 people that
live in coastal zones where there could be a storm surge and
heavy winds,” said Randolfo Funez, an emergency response

Richard was moving west-northwest at 10 mph (16 kph) and
was expected to strike Belize and southeastern Mexico later on
Sunday, the Miami-based hurricane center said. Honduras and
Belize issued hurricane warnings, and Mexico started evacuating
fishermen on the Yucatan peninsula.

Richard is expected to become a hurricane later Sunday
morning, the hurricane center said.


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Mexico’s state oil company said it was watching the storm
as it drew closer to the Bay of Campeche, where Mexico produces
more than two-thirds of its 2.6 million barrels-per-day of
crude output.

“We’re on alert but no measures have been taken (to modify
operations before the storm),” said a spokesman for the
company, known as Pemex.

Tropical storms and minor hurricanes rarely cause serious
damage to Pemex’s oil installations.

Honduras and Guatemala, Central America’s top two coffee
producers, have said the storm was not expected to hit the main
coffee-growing regions directly, although more wet weather
could complicate the start of the harvests set to begin this

The coffee- and sugar-producing countries of Central
America are recovering from damage to infrastructure and crops
after serious storms this summer.

Slow-moving storms like Richard can cause devastating
damage as they amble over land for several days dumping rain.
Hurricane Mitch moved in slow motion over Central America in
1998, killing more than 11,000 people, mostly in flash floods
and mudslides, and became the second most deadly Atlantic storm
on record.
(Additional reporting by Isela Serrano in Cancun, Mexico;
Writing by Jason Lange; Editing by Peter Cooney and Eric

Richard aims for Belize, seen becoming hurricane