by Staff Writers
Acapulco, Mexico (AFP) Oct 21, 2013
Hurricane Raymond swirled off Mexico's Pacific coast Monday, forcing schools to close and more than 1,000 people to leave homes in a region reeling from recent deadly floods and landslides.
The southwestern state of Guerrero, which was pummeled by Tropical Storm Manuel last month, closed schools for 35,000 children, shut down seaports and evacuated some 1,000 people, officials said.
Rain has already been drenching the tourist resort of Acapulco since late Sunday, causing water to rise up to the knees in some neighborhoods where 40 people had to leave, one month after floods trapped tourists for almost a week.
Threatened by heavy rains, the neighboring state of Michoacan opened 34 shelters and closed schools in four municipalities, said state government secretary Jaime Mares Camarena.
Raymond was stationary after growing into a major hurricane overnight, reaching Category Three force on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, the US National Hurricane Center said, warning that the storm could strengthen during the next day.
The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 120 miles (195 kilometers) per hour and bringing heavy rain to the south-central coast, threatening to produce large waves and flooding, the center said in its latest bulletin.
The hurricane paused some 105 miles (170 kilometers) southwest of Zihuatanejo and 160 miles (255 kilometers) from the resort of Acapulco, both located in Guerrero.
The US center said Raymond could move closer to the coast late Monday and Tuesday before weakening gradually late Wednesday and Thursday.
But Mexican National Water Commission director David Korenfeld said the hurricane could be pushed westward out to sea if it comes into contact with a cold front.
The last Category Three hurricane to hit Mexico was the Atlantic storm Karl in 2010.
The region is still recovering from Tropical Storm Manuel, which struck Guerrero in mid-September while another system, Ingrid, slammed the opposite coast almost simultaneously.
The twin storms claimed 157 lives and damaged the homes of 1.7 million people.
Hardest hit was Guerrero, where 101 of the deaths were recorded and a massive landslides buried a mountain village.
The unusual double storm blast occurred during a holiday weekend, leaving thousands of tourists stranded in Acapulco when airports and highways were closed.
Some 5,000 people are still living in shelters in Guerrero due to Manuel and 5,000 other families more may have to be relocated due to the previous storm.
With Raymond threatening to bring more misery, authorities said they had evacuated 400 people from the coastal municipality of Coyuca de Benitez, west of Acapulco, and another 400 further west in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo due to the risk of landslides and floods.
Another 100 families were removed from at-risk areas in the coastal municipality of Tecpan de Galeana, Mayor Crisoforo Otero told AFP.
The National Water Commission said Raymond could also dump torrential rains in Michoacan and soak several other states as well as Mexico City.
Korenfeld warned that soil across the region was already saturated with water, increasing the chances of flooding and landslides.
He said Mexico was on its way this year to breaking a record by being hit by eight named tropical storms or hurricanes -- four on each coast.
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