Felix is expected to strike the northern border between Honduras and Nicaragua on Tuesday morning and then hit southern Belize and move through the Peten jungle region of Guatemala and into southern Mexico.

 

Desperate airlift

 

Emergency services sailed Miskito Indians out of vulnerable coastal areas in Honduras, and Nicaragua said it would evacuate thousands more on its side of the swampy border area.

 

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale


Category 1 – Winds 119-153kph
Minor coastal flooding and structural damage

Category 2 – Winds 154-177kph
Damage to roofs, mobile homes and shanty houses. Some trees uprooted. Small boats may break moorings

Category 3 – Winds 178-209kph
Damage to buildings, mobile homes destroyed. Severe flooding near to coast

Category 4 – Winds 210-249kph
Major structural damage, roofs destroyed. Storm surge around 5m requiring widespread evacuation of coastal areas

Category 5 – Winds 249kph or higher
Serious damage to all but strongest buildings. Severe flooding far inland, all trees blown down. Storm surge up to 6m above normal

On Monday aircraft shuttled hundreds of tourists from the island resorts of Honduras and Belize in a desperate airlift.

 

Grupo Taca Airlines provided special free flights to the mainland, quickly touching down and taking off again to pick up more tourists.

 

Some 1,000 people were evacuated from the Honduran island of Roatan, popular for its pristine reefs and diving resorts.

 

Felix, the second hurricane of the 2007 Atlantic season, was for hours a top-ranked Category 5 storm like last month's Hurricane Dean, which killed 27 people in the Caribbean and Mexico.

 

Category 5 hurricanes can cause huge damage and are considered rare.

 

But there were four of them in the 2005 Atlantic season, including Katrina, and more of the potent storms this year could boost claims that global warming may produce stronger tropical cyclones.

 

Also on Monday, Tropical Storm Henriette headed across the eastern Pacific towards Mexico's Baja California peninsula at near hurricane strength after killing six people in the resort city of Acapulco during the weekend.