Hurricane Richard batters Belize but then weakens

People shelter from the rain in Belize City (24 October 2010) Hurricane Richard battered Honduras' Caribbean coast before reaching Belize

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Hurricane Richard has hit the Central American nation of Belize, knocking out electricity and blowing off roofs, but no deaths or injuries were reported.

Some 10,000 people took shelter in schools and churches.

Richard was downgraded to a tropical depression as it headed west-north-west with its winds decreasing to 55km/h (35 mph).

It is moving at 13km/h (8 mph), and is forecast to reach the Gulf of Mexico by Tuesday morning.

Mexico's state-run oil company Pemex said it did not expect Richard to affect offshore oil production.

Earlier on Monday, Patrick Jones of the Belize radio station Love News FM told the BBC that there was "massive flooding" in Belize City, after the hurricane blew in just to its south.

"A number of people have been calling for emergency services to come rescue them because they are either trapped by the rising water, or because their houses have collapsed," he said.

Belize City, which has a population of about 100,000, contains a large number of wooden, tin-roofed homes that are vulnerable to strong winds.

When it hit, Richard was rated as a Category One hurricane, the lowest on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale. It was the 10th storm of the hurricane season.

But as it moved into northern Guatemala on its way into south-eastern Mexico, it was downgraded to a tropical storm and then a depression.

Earlier, the storm hit Honduras' Caribbean coast.

Lisandro Rosales, the head of Honduras' permanent emergency commission, said no deaths or injuries had been reported.

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