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'Dangerous' hurricane hits Mexico Pacific resorts

AFP | Monday, Sep 15, 2014

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - Thousands of tourists and locals in Mexico hunkered down in luxury hotels converted into shelters on Monday after Hurricane Odile crashed into Los Cabos resorts in the north-west, taking down trees with powerful winds.

The "dangerous" hurricane, a category three storm on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, packed 205 kmh winds when it made landfall near Cabo San Lucas in late on Sunday, according to the United States National Hurricane Centre (NHC). Hurricane-force winds spread northwards as the eye of the storm moved over the southern portion of the Baja California peninsula, the NHC said.

At 6am, Odile was packing winds of 195 kmh as it moved north-north-west at 28 kmh. The storm took down trees, power lines and roof tiles as it crashed into the Baja California peninsula, said National Civil Protection coordinator Luis Felipe Puente.

Forecasters warned that heavy rains - up to 46cm in some areas - could produce life-threatening floods and mudslides. "There was no light here, and we were completely in the dark," said Mr Wenseslao Petit, director of civil protection of Los Cabo located on the tip of the Baja California Sur peninsula.

Some 26,000 foreign tourists and another 4,000 Mexicans were staying in 18 hotels converted into temporary shelters, officials said.

The deep blue sea grew fiercely turbulent, gray and foamy.

"It took us by surprise. The sea is rough. I think this is going to get very ugly," Mr Steve Clement, a surfer from Hawaii, told AFP.

Some 7,000 residents were evacuated from low-lying areas and took refuge in shelters or with relatives, Felipe Puente told Foro television.

Operations at Los Cabos International Airport were suspended.

The authorities cut power in Cabo San Lucas to prevent electrocutions, while officials said schools would close on Monday and independence day festivities would be called off.

Hundreds of troops were deployed to help the population.

"The tourists are not panicking," said Mr Daniel Manzini, assistant manager at the Hyatt Place hotel in San Jose del Cabo, which was nearly full. "The hotel is safe and can be converted into a shelter."

Mr Gordon Peter, a 65-year-old US tourist, had been in Los Cabos for a week when his flight home was cancelled on Sunday.

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