Hurricane Willa slams Mexico’s Pacific coast

Palm trees waves in Mazatlan as Hurricane Willa approaches the Pacific beach resort [Henry Romero/Reuters]

Hurricane Willa has made landfall in Mexico after hurtling towards the country’s north-western coastline at up to 195 kilometres per hour, the local weather service reported.

The eye of the Category-3 storm hit the coast at 7:30pm on Tuesday (0130 GMT Wednesday), passing near the city of Escuinapa in the state of Sinaloa and moving at 17 kph.

It is expected to dump 15 to 30 centimetres of rain on parts of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco states, with some areas getting up to 45 centimetres.

The three states had already declared an alert and cancelled school.

In the resort town of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco Governor Aristoteles Sandoval on Monday ordered the evacuation of hotels and coastal areas, warning the storm could have “very destructive consequences”.

“We do not have any reports of damages there so far,” the head of Mexico’s emergency services, Luis Felipe Puente, told a press conference.

More than 4,000 people were evacuated from high-risk areas, including tourists, he said. They are being housed in 58 temporary shelters, according to AFP news agency.

Empty hotels

At a shelter in Escuinapa, a town of 30,000 people that sits in the middle of the storm’s likely path, residents fretted over their houses as they waited out the storm.

“Let’s just hope this is over soon so we can go home,” said Epigmenio Cardenas, 44, a farmer who was among the 2,500 people huddled there.

The Mexican army deployed troops to roll out a disaster response operation in the area.

In Mazatlan, a tranquil resort town with turquoise waters, the hotels that line the coast were largely empty as workers nailed plywood over the windows and built sandbag barriers to keep out the flood waters earlier in the day.

As the storm moved over the town, drenching it in a light but steady rain, some hardy residents even went for walks or bike rides on the oceanfront avenue, the Malecon.

Adding to the weather chaos, the remnants of Tropical Storm Vicente were moving over Michoacan on Tuesday, bringing more heavy rainfall.

Mexico’s Pacific coast has already been hit by deadly storms and rains this hurricane season.

In September, at least 15 people were killed when flash floods hit the states of Sinaloa and Michoacan. Last week, 11 more people died in Oaxaca, including seven children.


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