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Caribbean storm Lisa headed for Belize to become hurricane

Tropical Storm Lisa will become a hurricane overnight, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast on Tuesday, as the churning weather system is likely to provoke "life-threatening" storm surges in Belize, Honduras and parts of Mexico.

Lisa is expected to "rapidly intensify" into a hurricane before passing over Honduras' Bay Islands early Wednesday and reaching Belize's coast later in the day, according to the Miami-based NHC.

Belize's coastline, known for its corral reefs, and Mexico's Caribbean-facing Yucatan peninsula are both home to major tourist destinations.

The coast of Belize could see water levels rise by as much as 4-7 feet (1.22-2.13 meters) with a smaller storm surge of 2-4 feet (61 cm-1.22 meters) possible along the southeastern Yucatan, the NHC predicted.

Lisa's maximum sustained winds reached 65 mph (105 kph) on Tuesday afternoon, while it moved westward at a speed of 15 mph (24 kph), according to the NHC.

A tropical storm converts to a category 1 hurricane once sustained winds reach 74 mph (119 kph).

A hurricane warning was in effect for all of Belize's coast and Guatemala's northern Atlantic coast, where the NHC warned residents to rush preparations to "protect life and property."

Lisa is expected to intensify on Wednesday as it approaches Belize, before likely weakening as it passes through Guatemala on Thursday and then crosses into southern Mexico.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for part of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, including the Mexican border city of Chetumal just north of Belize, along with the northern coasts of Honduras and Guatemala.

Rainfall totaling 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) is forecast for Belize, the Bay Islands, northern Guatemala and the southeast portion of the Mexico's Chiapas state.

(Reporting by Kylie Madry and Brendan O'Boyle; Editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler)

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