Hurricane Paula has strengthened as it threatens the Gulf Coast of Mexico and parts of Central America, forcing officials to call for the evacuation of many coastal areas.
At last report (1745 UTC), forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Paula's maximum sustained winds had increased from 120 kilometers to 160 kilometers an hour. Further strengthening is expected.
The storm is about 220 kilometers southeast of the Mexican resort island of Cozumel, where hurricane warnings are in effect. It is expected to approach the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula late Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hurricane Paula could dump eight to 15 centimeters of rain over western and central Cuba, the Yucatan Peninsula and northern Belize, with some isolated areas receiving more than 25 centimeters.
Forecasters say the heavy rains could trigger flash flooding and mudslides in the region, especially in mountainous parts of Nicaragua and Honduras.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.