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Hurricane Dean Hits Mexico, Loses Strength

Hurricane Dean made landfall on Mexico's Caribbean coast and quickly began losing power as it moved inland. In Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports that forecasters warn the storm may regain strength later Tuesday when it moves back into open waters.

The eye of Hurricane Dean made landfall for the first time early Tuesday, battering Mexico's coastline on the Yucatan peninsula, where scores of residents and tourists took refuge from heavy winds and rain. Weather forecasters said it was a category 5 storm at the time of impact, with maximum sustained winds of 257 kilometers per hour.

Jamie Rhome, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Miami, says Dean was quickly losing strength as it continued its path west, across the peninsula.

"It is weakening. Maximum sustained winds have come down to 125 miles per hour [201 kilometers per hour] and while this is quite a bit weaker than it was earlier this morning, 125 miles per hour is still a category three or a major hurricane," said Rhome.

Rhome says Dean is expected to continue its path west, moving over more warm waters in the Bay of Campeche later Tuesday. He says the storm could intensify before making landfall again in central Mexico on Wednesday.

The eye of Hurricane Dean moved just north of Mexico's border with Belize, which received heavy rainfall and strong winds Tuesday.

Earlier, Mexico's state oil company evacuated workers from oil rigs in the area, and residents of Mexico's Caribbean coast boarded up buildings and homes to protect against flying debris.

The storm is blamed for at least 11 deaths in Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti and the island of Dominica.

Officials in the U.S. state of Texas, along Mexico's border, have ordered emergency crews to monitor the hurricane and begin evacuating some areas on the Gulf coast.

The crew of the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour was set to land Tuesday, cutting short its mission by one day because of concerns about weather conditions at Mission Control in Houston, Texas.