Hurricane Iris left at least 21 dead, thousands of houses damaged
Authorities said 19 bodies were recovered in Belize, the worst-hit by the powerful hurricane that made landfall on Monday evening, and has since fizzled out.
Most of the dead were members of a Virginia dive club who chartered a yacht for a weeklong Caribbean cruise in Belize.
Tuesday, the owners of the 43-meter (120-foot) Wave Dancer said 18 bodies and eight survivors were found after the hurricane ripped the boat off its mooring and capsized it in southern Belize. A total of 28 people were aboard at the time.
Another two people were killed when the storm sent trees tumbling to the ground along Guatemala's tiny Caribbean coastline.
Entire villages were razed in Belize, but authorities in the worst hit areas said residents had been evacuated before the compact but explosive hurricane hit land.
Rescuers say 23 communities were hit with 13,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
Belize nationals called in to local radio and posted messages on the Web, frantically searching for news of friends and relatives in the affected areas.
Damage assessments compiled by local residents painted a picture of devastation in the area struck by Iris, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Belize City.
One such message posted on the Belize Hurricane Net Message Board said most houses and businesses, including tourist lodges, were destroyed in Placencia, Monkey River, Silver Creek and Big Falls, while many houses were destroyed in Independence and Seine Blight.
Local radio quoted the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) as saying 8,000 people in Belize were left homeless by the hurricane.
In neighboring Guatemala, authorities reported that at least 300 homes have been severely damaged.
The strongest storm to hit the Caribbean this season, Iris had already caused three deaths in the Dominican Republic on Saturday.
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