5 a.m. Sunday

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Residents of southern Mexico and Belize braced for Hurricane Keith as it threatened the Yucatan peninsula Saturday, bringing heavy rain and battering waves to the coast.

Bands of heavy rain reached Belize, Honduras and northern Nicaragua on Saturday. Forecasters warned of flash floods and mud slides, saying Keith could develop into a powerful hurricane over the next few days.

Storm surges caused rivers to overflow and flooded thousands of homes, civil protection officials in Mexico said.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Keith was centered about 55 miles east-southeast of Chetumal, Mexico. Maximum sustained winds increased to 135 mph, and forecasters expected the storm to drift north-northwest today.

A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph.

A hurricane warning was in effect along the Yucatan peninsula's eastern shore, from Cabo Catoche south to Monkey River Town, Belize, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. A hurricane watch was raised for the Yucatan's north coast, from west of Cabo Catoche to Progreso.

Emergency teams from the Yucatan to Costa Rica were on alert in low-lying areas at risk for flooding and mountainous zones where there was a possibility of landslides. The Mexican Army and Civil Protection officials set up shelters and called for evacuations in flood-prone areas.

Authorities in Honduras blamed bad weather for the disappearance of a helicopter carrying the chief justice of the country's Supreme Court and five others near northern coast Friday.

Soldiers and police were searching for the chopper, which disappeared from radar screens shortly after takeoff.