HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — Tourists caught the last flights out of Bermuda and locals stocked up on emergency supplies Saturday preparing for Hurricane Igor, while Mexicans mourned at least seven killed by Hurricane Karl.
An extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane earlier in the week, Igor was still a Category 2 storm, and officials warned that its pounding rains and driving winds could be deadly.
"This storm will be a long and punishing one," Public Safety Minister David Burch said. "The potential for injury and physical damage is great."
High surf kicked up by the storm has already swept two people out to sea in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, far to the south.
Several people stared mesmerized at the 12- to 15-foot waves (4- to 5-meter waves), including Peter Mills, 44, who took his wife and two children to John Smith's Bay Park to watch.
"It's absolutely spectacular, but it's probably going to be absolutely horrifying come the next couple of days," Mills said.
In Mexico, meanwhile, the remnants of Hurricane Karl soaked south-central portions of the country as authorities sent helicopters to rescue dozens of people stranded by flooding and hunt for others feared washed away.
At least seven fatalities were reported. A 61-year-old woman and a 2-year-old girl died when a landslide buried a house in the town of Nexticapan in Puebla state. In Veracruz state, a woman and two young children were swept away by a rushing river in Cotaxtla and two women were found dead in Felipe Carrillo.
Tropical-storm-force winds were forecast to start battering Bermuda Saturday night, with the hurricane expected to pass directly overhead or nearby late Sunday or early Monday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Igor had maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (160 kph) and was located about 285 miles (455 kilometers) south of Bermuda late Saturday. Hurricane-force winds extended about 90 miles (150 kilometers) from the storm's center, and it was headed north-northwest and expected to curve during the night toward the British Atlantic territory.
Tropical storm conditions were expected in Bermuda beginning Saturday night, and forecasters said Igor could bring 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 centimeters) of rain and cause significant coastal flooding.
Hotel cancellations were reported across Bermuda, popular with tourists for its pink sand beaches and with businesspeople as an offshore financial haven.
Sophie Dier, a spokeswoman for Elbow Beach hotel, said it was almost fully booked for the weekend until a business group and a wedding party canceled. Now the hotel will be around 10 percent full, she said.
Two Fairmont hotels also reported a 20 to 40 percent drop in occupancy.
"We have been proactively advising our guests to reschedule their travel plans," said Shelley Meszoly, Fairmont's regional marketing director.
Bermudians were planning ahead and buying up supplies, said Mark Stearns, vice president of Masters Ltd., a home and garden store in the capital of Hamilton.
"We've sold out of generators, tarpaulins, buckets, rope, screws, bottled water, coolers, even trash cans and plastic sheeting," he said. "Anything people can use to secure their homes."
Schools will close Monday and Tuesday, and a local newspaper said it will not print a Monday edition.
"This decision has not been taken lightly," editor Bill Zuill wrote in an article published Saturday. "It will be the first time in living memory that The Royal Gazette has missed an edition."
The government closed L.F. Wade International Airport at midafternoon and likely would not reopen it until Monday. A causeway from the east end of the island to the rest of Bermuda was also to be closed.
The last plane to leave was a British Airways flight bound for London, which departed three hours earlier than usual.
Aboard was Jane Royden, 47, and her husband, both from Birmingham, England.
"We are quite relieved to be leaving and concerned for the safety of the island and everyone here," said Royden, who cut her two-week vacation short by a week.
Traveller's Boat Works marina was running out of space for all the vessels whose owners wanted them out of the water, and arranged to turn a nearby church parking lot into a makeshift boat yard.
"They pushed the panic button basically between Thursday night and yesterday," said marina operator Kristy Roberts. "I had maybe 20 boats to mess with, now I'm up to possibly 40 ... and I think it's going to go well over that."