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Mexico braces for more Tropical Storm Franklin

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Mexico City (AFP)

Tropical Storm Franklin swept Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday, dumping heavy rain on its pristine beaches but doing relatively little damage -- though the country was braced for a second round.

Franklin made landfall early Tuesday some 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of the beach resort of Cancun, and was advancing to the northwest at 20 kilometers per hour, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

It was set to finish crossing the peninsula later Tuesday and enter the Gulf of Mexico, where it could strengthen -- possibly into a hurricane -- before crashing back into the Mexican coastline.

The storm's second landfall is expected Wednesday night or early Thursday, to the north of the major port city of Veracruz, according to forecasts.

The storm currently has maximum sustained winds of 75 kilometers per hour, according to the Miami-based NHC in its 1500 GMT bulletin.

"Some weakening is likely until the center moves back over water, and strengthening is expected thereafter until landfall occurs in mainland Mexico," it said.

Mexican authorities had preventively evacuated some 300 residents of small fishing villages in the storm's path.

"Fortunately we have not received reports of any problems or accidents related to the storm," the governor of Quintana Roo state, Carlos Joaquin, told Mexican radio network Formula.

The international airport in Chetumal, the state capital, reopened Tuesday morning after closing overnight. Schools remained closed statewide, however.

A red alert remained in place for the south and center of the state.

Mexico's Yucatan peninsula is at high risk for devastating hurricane damage.

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma hit the Riviera Maya -- the stretch of picturesque beaches and resorts south of Cancun -- as a Category Four storm and pummeled the area for 48 hours.

It killed eight people and did $10 billion in damage.

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