Hurricane Rina has gathered force, churning towards a possible direct hit on Cancun and other busy international tourist destinations on Mexico's resort-filled Caribbean coast.
Already packing 110 mile (175 kilometer) per hour winds, Rina was forecast to become a major category three storm by early Wednesday before crashing into the Mexican coast near the sprawling resort city of Cancun on Thursday.
The storm was moving west at three miles (six kilometers) per hour and was expected to dump between 8-16 inches (20-40 centimeters) of rain on the eastern Yucatan peninsula from early Wednesday into Friday.
Rina was expected to kick up a storm surge of five to seven feet above normal sea levels, the latest NHC bulletin also warned.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula from Punta Gruesa up to Cancun on the northern tip. Honduras put its Caribbean resort island of Roatan under tropical storm watch.
The US State Department on Tuesday warned its nationals living or on vacation in the area to prepare for the storm, and perhaps consider leaving Mexico as flights could be disrupted once the storm starts to bear down.
"Identify local shelter, monitor local media reports, and follow the instructions of local emergency officials," it said in a travel warning.
"In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who choose to stay."
A Nicaraguan naval vessel that disappeared on Sunday with 29 people on board during an evacuation mission ahead of the storm was found with its occupants all "safe and sound," officials said.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had ordered the ship to remove people from flood-prone coastal areas but contact was lost after four sailors had picked up 25 indigenous Miskito fishermen, the nation's military said.
The country's civil defense chief, Lieutenant Colonel Freddy Herrera, told AFP that a shrimping boat was trawling when it chanced upon the missing navy boat and notified the authorities, who had been hunting for it for two days.
The naval vessel was one of three ships dispatched on Sunday by Ortega to help evacuate Miskito residents from Sandy Bay, a coastal town north of the provincial capital Bilwi.
Central America is still struggling to recover from recent torrential rains that triggered deadly flooding and landslides, swamped huge swathes of farmland, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
Source: AFP Global Edition