TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Tropical Storm Gamma deluged the coast of Central America on Saturday, killing at least six people — three in flooding in Honduras and three in the crash of a small plane belonging to a Belize lodge owned by the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.
Forecasters said the slow-moving Gamma, the 24th named storm of an already record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, was likely to miss Florida. The storm had top sustained winds near 45 mph and was expected to stay well below hurricane strength of 74 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in Miami.
Gamma was likely to speed up and turn northeast on Sunday, sending it across the northeastern Caribbean and toward western Cuba, forecasters said. On that path, Gamma would cross Cuba but skirt the Florida Keys and the Florida mainland on Monday.
Earlier forecasts showed Gamma following a course similar to the one taken by Hurricane Wilma, which barreled across south Florida on Oct. 24, causing 21 deaths, damaging homes and triggering power outages.
"We're out of the cone of danger," said Jennifer Pralgo, a hurricane center meteorologist.
At 10 p.m. EST, the storm was about 250 miles east-southeast of Belize City and about 90 miles northeast of Limon, Honduras. It was moving erratically to the northeast at 6 mph.
Gamma brought torrential rains to much of Central America, especially Honduras, where flash floods slowed the flow of emergency aid, said Luis Gomez, the country's emergency coordinator.
"People who are cut off or affected by the rains should ration water and food on their own because we won't get to them until weather conditions improve," Gomez said.
He said at least three Hondurans had died and 13 more were missing, but had no further details.
Gomez said five major rivers overflowed their banks, washing out bridges and highways. Officials evacuated more than 5,000 people, some of those from areas in San Pedro Sula, the country's second-largest city.
Heavy winds and rains were also pounding the Bay Islands, off the Honduran coast, said Hugo Arevalo, coordinator of a national disaster-response committee.
"The damage is terrible along all the northern coast of the country," he said. "Many of our countrymen are suffering, but we are doing all we can to bring them food, medicine and clothing."
In western Belize, the private plane belonging to Coppola's resort, Blancaneaux Lodge, crashed Saturday morning, killing the Belizean pilot Rene Ram and two guests, said Kathleen Talbert, a spokeswoman for the filmmaker. Talbert, who declined to release the names of the guests, said the wreckage was found on the property of a neighboring resort.
When the twin-engine plane took off, there were no tropical storm warnings, Talbert said. "My understanding is that the bad weather cropped up quite suddenly," she added.
Coppola, who owns one other resort in Belize and one in Guatemala, did not know the passengers who died, Talbert said.
Rescuers were still searching for five Belizean fishermen who disappeared Friday when their vessel capsized.
Gamma extended the Atlantic's record-breaking storm season. The previous record of 21 named storms had stood since 1933.