Hurricane drenches Mexico, prompting evacuations

Rains and high surf brought by powerful Hurricane Norbert have damaged more than 1,000 homes and forced thousands of people to seek higher ground as the storm roared northward off the coast of Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

Los Cabos (Mexico): Rains and high surf brought by powerful Hurricane Norbert have damaged more than 1,000 homes and forced thousands of people to seek higher ground as the storm roared northward off the coast of Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

Norbert strengthened to a powerful Category 3 storm with winds of up to 185 kph but was staying away from land. It was near enough the coast, though, to drench fishing villages and resorts and pound beaches.

High surf and waves broke a contention wall and flooded the fishing village of Puerto de San Carlos, said Venustiano Perez, mayor of the municipality of Comondu yesterday which encompasses the village and is located about 500 kilometres north of the tip of the peninsula.

Perez said that 1,250 houses were damaged and that some of the 2,500 people affected were evacuated to a shelter. Baja California Sur state Gov Marcos Covarrubias urged people in vulnerable areas to evacuate and said travellers should stay off highways as the storm passed by. He said most government services would be closed or restricted, and schools in Los Cabos and La Paz were closed on Friday.

By yesterday morning, at least 2,000 people had been evacuated from Los Cabos, La Paz and Comondu, said the state government's civil protection director Carlos Rincon.

At least 1,000 people were in shelters Friday evening in Los Cabos, where the storm toppled trees and knocked out electricity in parts of the resort area. Firefighters rescued several people from vehicles stranded in flooded streets, said Wenceslao Pettit, Public Safety director in Cabo San Lucas.

Ports in the area popular with US tourists remained closed to navigation and police officers were sent to the evacuated neighbourhoods to prevent looting, Pettit added.

The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said yesterday afternoon that Norbert was centred about 230 kilometres west of sparsely populated Cabo San Lazaro.

Forecasters said Norbert, which had reached hurricane strength Wednesday, was headed northwest at 13 kph. The Hurricane Centre said Norbert was helping push moisture from the remnants of Tropical Storm Dolly across northern Mexico and into the southwestern United States, bringing possible heavy rains in coming days to areas plagued by drought. 

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