November 20, 2005

Gamma weakens to tropical depression

MIAMI (Reuters) - Gamma, the 24th named storm in the
record-breaking hurricane season, has weakened into a tropical
depression, the National Hurricane Center said on Sunday.

Gamma's maximum sustained winds dropped to 35 miles per
hour (55 km per hour), but the storm was expected to bring rain
to southern Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Gamma lashed Central America on Saturday and killed at
least 12 people, three of them in a plane crash on their way to
a luxury jungle lodge owned by film director Francis Ford

Nine of the dead were in Honduras, where another 14 people
are missing. Over 5,000 people were evacuated on Honduras'
Caribbean coast and rescue officials said more than 50,000 were
cut off as bridges were damaged or destroyed, leaving several
cities and towns isolated.

Experts said it would bypass Mexico's Yucatan peninsula,
which is recovering from a battering by Hurricane Wilma three
weeks ago. They also said it would probably would not directly
hit southern Florida, where Wilma also wreaked havoc.

Slow-moving Gamma is the 24th named storm of a
record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season.

Earlier in October, Hurricane Stan killed up to 2,000
people in Central America as flash floods and mudslides washed
away whole villages.

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans after slamming
ashore on August 29, killing more then 1,000 people.