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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 October 2005, 22:45 GMT
Beta weakens into tropical storm
Sailors try to save their boat in Puerto Cabezas
Puerto Cabezas had made preparations for the hurricane
Hurricane Beta has weakened into a tropical storm after reaching Nicaragua and should continue to lose strength.

Beta made landfall as a Category Two hurricane, with winds of 175km/h (110mph) at 1100 GMT, ripping off roofs and uprooting trees.

Flood and landslide warnings remained in place as the storm headed west, expecting to dump up to 38cm (15in) of rain in Nicaragua and Honduras.

Beta is the 13th hurricane of the Atlantic season - a record.

"These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

Urgent evacuation

Beta was initially forecast to hit the city of Puerto Cabezas on Nicaragua's north-eastern coast but changed direction.

They brought us here without telling us anything. We don't have food or water
Norma Smith
Puerto Cabezas resident

It made landfall about 100km (62 miles) further south, damaging houses and uprooting trees in the villages of Sandy Bay and Karawala. No casualties have been reported.

Beta was expected to continue to lose strength as it moved inland on Sunday, US forecasters said.

An evacuation order had been in place in Puerto Cabezas, which has a population of 60,000, as authorities were expecting a direct hit from Beta.

Among the residents was Norma Smith, a mother of six, who had sought shelter in a school with about 200 other people.

"We had a very bad night. The water leaked in, the children were cold. They brought us here without telling us anything. We don't have food or water," she told the Reuters news agency.

Hurricane record

Earlier, Beta damaged low-lying wooden homes on the Colombian island of Providencia in the Caribbean, while residents took refuge in brick shelters built on high ground.

All the islanders were believed to be safe but many homes had been damaged, Capt German Collazos, chief of ports, told Associated Press.

This hurricane season has seen 23 named storms, more than at any point since record-keeping began in 1851. The previous record of 21 was set in 1933.

Last week Tropical Storm Alpha formed - the first time a letter from the Greek alphabet has been used because the list of storm names has been exhausted.

Alpha, which struck earlier this week, killed 26 people in the Caribbean and caused flooding and mudslides in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It has now subsided.

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