Residents of the Florida Keys have begun a mandatory evacuation, as the southeastern U.S. state prepares for the onset of Hurricane Wilma forecast for Monday.
The powerful storm is currently hovering over Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, where it is causing extensive damage. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm's winds have decreased slightly to 185 kilometers per hour. But Wilma is still an extremely dangerous hurricane with battering winds and torrential rains. Forecasts say the slow-moving hurricane will continue to weaken as it gradually drifts northward -- but it is expected to linger over the tip of the Yucatan peninsula for much of the day on Saturday. Damage from the storm is expected to be severe because it has been in the area for about 36 hours so far. Reports from the low-lying resort town of Cancun say the storm surge from the Caribbean Sea has already flooded the hotel zone, and more flooding in the coastal region is expected. Thousands of tourists not able to evacuate the resort are riding out the storm in emergency shelters. The storm first hit the Mexican Caribbean island of Cozumel Friday. It is due to hit western Cuba Sunday, and the southeastern U.S. state of Florida Monday. Hurricane Wilma already has killed at least 10 people in the Caribbean.