Belize placed on hurricane alert

BRITISH TROOPS helped to evacuate low-lying coastal areas and nearby islands of the former colony of Belize yesterday as Hurricane Mitch, the fourth largest hurricane recorded in the Caribbean, threatened to devastate a swath of Central America.

The British High Commission in Belize warned British residents, thought to number several hundred, to take shelter or move inland from the islands and coast, including the biggest city, Belize City.

Residents of English-speaking Belize (formerly British Honduras) and neighbouring Spanish-speaking Honduras and Guatemala braced for possible catastrophe as Mitch roared towards the coast with winds of nearly 180mph. That put it in the maximum hurricane category 5, far stronger than Hurricane Georges, which recently devastated parts of the Caribbean and the Florida Keys.