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Caribbean braces for Tropical Storm Franklin

© AFP | Tourists walk on the beach in Tulum, Mexico on Monday before the arrival of tropical storm Franklin

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - 

Mexico, Belize and Guatemala braced Monday for Tropical Storm Franklin, expected to make landfall overnight on the southern Mexican coast -- possibly at hurricane strength.

Packing sustained winds of 95 kilometers (60 miles) per hour, Franklin was heading toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, threatening the Caribbean resort town of Cancun and the stretch of pristine beaches known as the Riviera Maya.

Located 270 kilometers from Belize City and traveling at 20 kilometers per hour, the storm was expected to hit just north of the Mexican city of Chetumal, near the border with Belize, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

"Some strengthening is expected before the center reaches the Yucatan Peninsula, and Franklin could be near hurricane intensity at landfall," it said in an advisory.

Mexican authorities in the state of Quintana Roo declared an "orange alert," and evacuated around 300 people from small coastal villages facing the greatest threat.

They recommended people remain inside after dark, and planned to close the airport in Chetumal, a city of 150,000 people.

In Belize, the authorities also issued an alert and warned that power outages were likely in affected areas.

And in Guatemala, authorities said they expected heavy rain in the north and northeast.

The region is at high risk for devastating hurricane damage.

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma hit the Riviera Maya as a Category Four storm and pummeled the area for 48 hours, with a toll of eight people killed and $10 billion in damages.

© 2017 AFP