Cancun: Hurricane Paula headed for a near pass along the southern coast of Mexico`s resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday, and then was expected to move toward the western end of Cuba.
The Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (160 kph), was expected to swipe at the islands of Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and Holbox, authorities said.
Moving north at near 9 mph (15 kph), Paula`s center was expected to pass just to the east of Cancun on Wednesday morning, and decrease in forward speed after as it turns to the northeast in the afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
It said the hurricane could get close to western Cuba by Wednesday night or early Thursday.
Authorities of the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located, ordered the evacuation of 1,500 residents of Isla Holbox and 60 fishermen from Isla Contoy. The evacuees were taken to the town of Kantunilkin on the mainland.
"Although it is forecast that Hurricane Paula ... will not directly impact anywhere on the Yucatan Peninsula, residents should exercise extreme caution," said Felipe Adrian Vazquez, general coordinator of Mexico`s Weather Service.
More than 1,800 tourists remained on Cozumel after authorities suspended all sea transportation. City officials said three shelters were available on the island but that only a family of six had arrived at one of them late Tuesday.
Quintana Roo state prosecutors said in a statement that a U.S. man drowned when he went swimming in heavy surf near his hotel. Mickey Goodwin, a 54-year-old Texas resident, ignored warnings and red flags alerting the dangerous waters, the statement said.
In Cancun, 15 flights were cancelled Tuesday and seven international flights for Wednesday would be cancelled, Cancun airport commander Jose Chavez said.
Dozens of boat owners in Cancun hauled yachts and other vessels to shore, while sea tour operators cancelled reservations. At least one company, Transbordadores del Caribe, cancelled ferry trips from Playa del Carmen to the resort island of Cozumel south of Cancun, though others were still operating while the weather remained mild.
Armando Galmiche closed down his water-skiing tour business in Cancun and cancelled 15 reservations he had for Tuesday afternoon.