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Hurricane Rina gaining strength on path to Cancun

CANCUN, Mexico — Mexican authorities set up emergency shelters and cruise ships shifted course Tuesday as Hurricane Rina strengthened off the Caribbean coast, following a projected track that has it whirling through Cancun and the resort-filled Mayan Riviera, Mexico's most popular tourist destination.

Rina's maximum sustained winds have increased to 110 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said, making it a Category 2 storm.

Forecasters predict it will strengthen as it nears the Mexican coast tonight before rolling over the island of Cozumel, a popular dive spot and cruise-ship port, then along the coast to Cancun.

In Cancun's hotel zone, a string of pickup trucks hauled small boats and jet skis away from marinas, while workers at shopping malls began boarding up windows.

At least eight cruise ships were changing itineraries away from the storm's path, said Carnival Cruise Lines spokesman Vance Gulliksen. Three cruise ships from the company Norwegian and one from Royal Caribbean have canceled their Friday port of call in the area, said Hiram Toledo, Quintana Roo port administrator.

State officials said they were readying more than 1,100 shelters that could handle nearly 200,000 people, though so far there was no word of any planned evacuations.

The forecast track shows Rina curving east toward Cuba by the weekend, but senior hurricane specialist Michael Brennan at the hurricane center said it could also move toward southern Florida.

The center said the storm could produce as much as 16 inches of rain over parts of the eastern Yucatan Peninsula while raising water levels by as much as 5 to 7 feet in places.

Hurricane Rina gaining strength on path to Cancun 10/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 10:16pm]

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