HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — Tourists lined up at Bermuda's airport hoping to board one of the last flights off the island and locals stocked up on emergency supplies Saturday in preparation for the approaching Hurricane Igor.
An extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane earlier in the week, Igor was still a Category 2 storm, and officials warned that its pounding rains and driving winds could be deadly.
"This storm will be a long and punishing one," Public Safety Minister David Burch said. "The potential for injury and physical damage is great."
High surf kicked up by the storm has already swept two people out to sea in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, far to the south.
In Mexico, meanwhile, the remnants of Hurricane Karl soaked south-central portions of the country as authorities sent helicopters to rescue scores of people stranded by flooding and hunt for others feared washed away.
At least two people were reported dead: a 61-year-old woman and a 2-year-old girl killed when a landslide buried a house in the town of Nexticapan in Puebla state.
Tropical-storm-force winds were forecast to start battering Bermuda Saturday night, with the hurricane expected to pass directly overhead or nearby late Sunday or early Monday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Around midday, Igor had maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 kph) and was located about 440 miles (710 kilometers) south of Bermuda. It was headed north-northwest and expected to curve toward the British Atlantic territory.
Hotel cancellations were reported across Bermuda, popular with tourists for its pink sand beaches and with businesspeople as an offshore financial haven.
Sophie Dier, a spokeswoman for Elbow Beach hotel, said it was almost fully booked for the weekend until a business group and a wedding party canceled. Now the hotel will be around 10 percent full, she said.
Two Fairmont hotels also reported a 20 to 40 percent drop in occupancy.
"We have been proactively advising our guests to reschedule their travel plans," said Shelley Meszoly, Fairmont's regional marketing director.
Bermudians were planning ahead and buying up supplies, said Mark Stearns, vice president of Masters Ltd., a home and garden store in the capital of Hamilton.
"We've sold out of generators, tarpaulins, buckets, rope, screws, water coolers, coolers, even trash cans and plastic sheeting," he said. "Anything people can use to secure their homes."
Schools will close Monday and Tuesday, and a local newspaper said it will not print a Monday edition.
"This decision has not been taken lightly," editor Bill Zuill wrote in an article published Saturday. "It will be the first time in living memory that The Royal Gazette has missed an edition."
The government planned to close the L. F. Wade International Airport by Saturday afternoon and likely reopen it Monday. A causeway from the east end of the island to the rest of Bermuda was also to be closed.
Traveller's Boat Works marina was running out of space for all the vessels whose owners wanted them out of the water, and arranged to turn a nearby church parking lot into a makeshift boat yard.
"They pushed the panic button basically between Thursday night and yesterday," said marina operator Kristy Roberts. "I had maybe 20 boats to mess with, now I'm up to possibly 40 ... and I think it's going to go well over that."
Bistro at The Beach, a popular bar and restaurant in Hamilton, reported a busy Friday night ahead of the storm.
"I guess people are making the most of getting out and partying," manager Duncan Adams said. "They're going to be cooped up in their homes from today."
In 2003, Hurricane Fabian killed four people when it hit Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane.
In Mexico, Karl was dissipating over the mountains Saturday, though it could still produce as much as 3 more inches (7.5 centimeters) of rain in some areas, the Hurricane Center said.
Karl had sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) when it hit land at midday Friday about 10 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of the port city of Veracruz, but the storm rapidly lost force over rugged territory that includes Mexico's highest volcano, 18,619-foot (5,675-meter) Pico de Orizaba. The storm's winds were down to 25 mph (35 kph) by Saturday morning.
Mexico's navy sent helicopters to rescue about 40 families trapped on a hill surrounded by floodwaters in the town of San Pancho, north of Veracruz city, said state Civil Protection Secretary Silvia Dominguez. South of the city, in Cotaxtla, houses were flooded up to their roofs and officials were hunting for seven members of two families feared washed away by a swollen river.
Veracruz state Gov. Fidel Herrera said some 16,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes as the storm roared through, downing trees, power lines and billboards and erasing beachfront huts.
Local forecasters said the storm dumped 8 inches (215 millimeters) of rain in the city just in the first 90 minutes after arriving. Flights into Veracruz were canceled, and public transit was shut down on Friday, though air and bus service began to resume on Saturday.
Associated Press writers Jason Bronis in Hamilton, Bermuda; E. Eduardo Castillo in Cordoba, Mexico; and Miguel Angel Hernandez in Veracruz, Mexico, contributed to this report.
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