Hurricane Richard slammed into Belize's Caribbean coast just south of its largest city late Sunday, as authorities evacuated tourists from outlying islands and an estimated 10,000 people took refuge at shelters in the tiny Central American nation.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Richard's top winds were 90 mph (150 kph) - making it a Category 1 hurricane - when it made landfall about 20 miles (35 kms) south-southwest of Belize City, whose neighborhoods are full of wooden, tin-roof homes that are very vulnerable to winds.
"The winds are very strong ... it's getting stronger," said Fanny Llanos, a clerk at the Lazy Iguana bed and Breakfast on Caye Caulker, a low-lying island known for its coral reefs and crystal-clear waters, located just offshore from Belize City.
Llanos said that palm trees were bending over in the wind and it had become very noisy.
"All the windows are boarded, and this is a strong house so we will be here," she said, "but we are still afraid."