November 20 2005 at 03:54AM

Tegucigalpa - The most active Atlantic hurricane season on record turned deadly again as at least nine people were killed and 14 others missing after Tropical Storm Gamma flooded parts of northern Honduras, authorities said Sunday.

The government said it had made an urgent request for US helicopters to help rescue dozens of people left stranded on rooftops by floods and mudslides in the area of the Honduran northern Caribbean coast, said the Permanent Commission on Contingencies.

Commission official Hugo Arevalo said the government had asked for assistance from the US army helicopters which operate from the Palmerola Air Base north of the capital.

The helicopters took part in distributing emergency rations to victims of earlier hurricanes this year.

More than 11 600 people have been evacuated from areas struck by tropical storm Gamma on Friday and Saturday, the commission said.

Gamma, the 24th named storm in a record Atlantic hurricane season, was drifting erratically off the Honduras coast.

In Cuba the Meteorological Institute warned Saturday that the storm could threaten the island as it was expected to move slowly northward.

"Pay attention to the development of the coming weather system," because "the unusual storm comes with a cold front," said Jose Rubiera, head of storm predictions at the institute.

"What we will have is a weather system alongside a cold front, which will be the first cold of the winter season," he said on local television.

He predicted "heavy rains, intense at times, but not long-lasting, along with winds of up to 90 kilometres per hour in the western part of the country," overnight Sunday and lasting until midday Monday.

At 0600 GMT, the centre of Gamma, packing maximum sustained winds near 75 km/h was located about 360 km east-southeast of Belize City and about 110 km northeast of Limon, Honduras, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

"Gamma is moving erratically toward the north near 5 km/h and a continued slow motion generally toward the north-northeast is expected during the next 24 hours but the motion could be somewhat erratic," it added.

"Little change in strength is forecast during the next 24 hours," the US forecasters added.

The Atlantic tropical storm season, which ends on November 30, is the most active ever recorded, with 27 named storms, 13 of which developed into hurricanes.

The United States has a fleet of troop and cargo transport helicopters at Palmerola, also home to 500 US troops.

The United States loaned the helicopters to ship, along with Honduran air force choppers, some 2 000 tonnes of food to about 14 000 people hit by hurricanes Katrina, Stan and Wilma in recent weeks. - Sapa-AFP