SAN ANDRES, Colombia – Hundreds of villagers on a tiny Caribbean island hiked into the mountains Friday, fleeing a powerful tropical storm that engulfed Providencia in heavy winds and rain.
Tropical Storm Beta made a direct hit on the Manhattan-size island, damaging scores of homes and buildings.
Wind speed grew late Friday to 70 mph, just 4 mph shy of hurricane strength, forecasters said. It was expected to develop into a hurricane over the next several hours.
Providencia, popular with scuba divers, is located 125 miles off Nicaragua’s coast.
The island’s 5,000 residents rode out the storm, with some 300 of them and a dozen tourists fleeing wooden homes along the coast for sturdier brick shelters in the highlands, officials said. Phone service to the island worked intermittently.
There were no reports of injury, but scores of homes sustained mainly damaged roofs, Capt. German Collazos, chief of ports for the island, told the Associated Press by telephone. He said five Americans were among the tourists on the island.
Late Friday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was centered just north of Providencia and was traveling northwest at 5 mph. It was expected to slam into Nicaragua by Sunday, but was not expected to affect the United States.