ACAPULCO, Mexico – Hurricane Raymond has drifted off Mexico's Pacific coast , forcing schools to close and more than 1,000 people to leave their homes in a region reeling from recent deadly floods and landslides.
The southwestern state of Guerrero, which was pummeled by Tropical Storm Manuel in September, on Monday closed schools for 35,000 children, shut down seaports and evacuated vulnerable residents, officials said.
Rain has already been drenching the resort of Acapulco since late Sunday, causing water to rise up to the knees in some neighborhoods where 40 people had to leave, just a month after floods trapped tourists there for almost a week.
As the major hurricane crept off the coast, several residents of the small town of Los Cimientos, west of Acapulco, took refuge on the second floor of the elementary school.
"We are afraid that it will take us by surprise, so it was better to come here," said local resident Bernarda Garcia whose town was devastated by Manuel. The Category Three hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale gained some strength in the afternoon, packing maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour, the US National Hurricane Center said in its latest bulletin.
After stalling, the storm was "meandering" eastward at two miles 4km per hour some 160km southwest of Zihuatanejo and 235km from Acapulco, it said.
The US forecasters said Raymond could move closer to the coast late Monday and Tuesday but would slowly move west on Wednesday.
Soldiers evacuated some 500 people from Los Cimientos and Tierra Digna, which are part of the Coyuca de Benitez municipality, due to the risk of floods, Mayor Ramiro Avila said.
Another 400 were evacuated from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo further west, while some 100 families were moved from at-risk areas in the municipality of Tecpan de Galeana, officials said.
But in Zihuatanejo, only 40 residents agreed to go into one of the three shelters prepared for some 1,500 people.
"Unfortunately, people are refusing to go to shelters until something happens," Mayor Erick Fernandez said.
Fishermen docked their boats after many fellow seamen lost their vessels during Manuel's passage.
"Everybody has bought food supplies to last a week. God willing this won't get ugly," said tuna fisherman Leonardo Gutierrez.
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.
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 landslide buried a mountain village. In Manuel's aftermath, some 5,000 people are still living in shelters in Guerrero and 5,000 other families may have to be relocated.
The National Water Commission said Raymond could also dump torrential rains in Michoacan and soak several other states, as well as Mexico City.
The commission has warned that soil across the region was already saturated with water, increasing the chances of flooding and landslides.AFP