Managua, Nicaragua Officials evacuated hundreds of tourists and residents from the Colombian island of San Andres as Tropical Storm Beta appeared on track to become the 13th hurricane of the already record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season of 23 named storms.
Officials used clergy to convince people to leave San Andres, an island popular with tourists that sits 110 miles off Nicaragua's coast, and which lies almost directly in the storm's projected path.
San Andres is a far-flung possession of Colombia, whose coast is 450 miles away. The U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami said Beta's center was expected to pass near San Andres late Thursday or today.
Beta is expected to continue on and hit mainland Nicaragua as a strong Category 2 hurricane by Sunday.
About 500 tourists and 200 poor people living in shacks on the southern beaches of San Andres were moved Thursday to one of a dozen shelters set up by the government. The tourists gladly left their hotels, but residents sometimes needed to be coaxed.
"The emergency workers went door to door with priests and nuns because of lot of the residents didn't want to leave and needed reassuring from the (Catholic) church ... which definitely helped," said San Andres police chief Col. Carlos Mena.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe voiced concern for the San Andres's 80,000 residents.
"San Andres has no flood drains, so we're definitely going to have a tough time removing the excess water by way of the normal sewage system," Uribe told reporters in Bogota, the capital.
Beta had winds of 60 mph and by late Thursday it was located about 50 miles south-southeast of San Andres, and about 160 miles east of Bluefields, the nearest point on the Nicaraguan coast.
Beta was moving north about 3 mph, but was expected to take a slow turn to the northwest.
Beta would be the first hurricane to hit the Colombian islands since Hurricane Cesar slammed into them in 1996, killing three people.