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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Hurricane Adrian hits El Salvador
Nasa image of Hurricane Adrian
Situated on the Pacific, El Salvador usually escapes hurricanes
A hurricane has struck the coast of El Salvador, killing two people, in an unusually early start to the annual storm season.

Hurricane Adrian hit the coast from the Pacific early on Friday, forcing up to 20,000 residents to flee their homes before weakening as it moved inland.

US officials downgraded Adrian to a tropical storm and coastal warnings in Guatemala and Honduras were lifted.

El Salvador has avoided major storm damage since Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Meteorologists said Hurricane Adrian was less powerful than Hurricane Iris, which tore through the northern part of Central America in 2001.

But across Central America, ravaged by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, fearful residents were taking storm precautions.

Hurricane Adrian had winds of up to 120km/h (75mph) as it reached the coast of El Salvador, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

These dropped to 100km/h by 0500 local (0900 GMT), with further falls expected over the next 24 hours, the forecasters said.

Pacific rarity

Streets were empty as the storm approached the beach resort of Puerto La Libertad, the Associated Press news agency said.

"The electricity has gone out, the wind is getting stronger and it's raining non-stop," restaurant guard Jorge Alberto Turcios said.

"The waves are getting higher. There's not a soul on the street."

El Salvador's President Tony Saca told Salvadorans to follow evacuation requests rather than stay at home to guard their property.

In Guatemala, President Oscar Berger declared a state of alert but expressed hope that damage would be minimal.

Ordinary Guatemalans were less sure.

"We are all worried. People are scared because we all lost something with Mitch," housewife Maria Esperanza told Reuters in the coastal town of Puerto San Jose.

US hurricane experts said Adrian was a rare example of a Pacific storm continuing a path across Central America.

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03 Dec 98 |  Hurricane Mitch

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