Hurricane Iris blasts Belize; 20 feared dead

BELIZE CITY, Belize -- Hurricane Iris walloped the south coast of Belize in the early hours of Oct. 9, but quickly lost its punch as the category four storm made landfall.

However, a 28-passenger live-aboard dive boat capsized when a storm surge snapped the mooring line. As many as 20 passengers are feared dead, according to Patricia Rose, spokeswoman for Peter Hughes Diving in Miami.

The 120-foot Wave Dancer, which had been chartered by the Richmond Dive Club of Richmond, Va., was moored with other dive boats near Big Creek, 80 miles southwest of Belize City.

Belize City had been evacuated prior to the storm, so hotel rooms were not available for the dive boat passengers. Most residents moved inland from Belize City to Belmopan, about 50 miles west, before the storm struck.

Belize's northern offshore islands of San Pedro and Ambergris Caye had little damage. Southern coastal towns had damage from wind and storm surges.

Hurricane Iris was downgraded to a very weakened tropical depression as it moved inland across Belize. Western Belize had no damage.

Earlier, the storm caused wave surges and rough seas along Jamaica's south coast and mudslides in parts of the Dominican Republic's south coast.

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