Mexico, Guatemala Battered by Hurricane, Flash Floods
Deadly storms swamp Mexico and Guatemala
Beach areas get swamped, while mountain towns see flash floods
The Associated Press, Oct. 13, 2011
MANZANILLO, Mexico — Hurricane Jova slammed into Mexico's Pacific coast as a Category 2 storm early Wednesday, killing at least five people and injuring six, while a tropical depression hit farther south and unleashed steady rains that contributed to 13 deaths across the border in Guatemala.
Jova came ashore west of the Mexican port of Manzanillo and the beach town of Barra de Navidad before dawn with 100 mph winds and heavy rains, before moving inland and weakening to a tropical depression by afternoon. It continued to dump rain over a large swath of northwest Mexico, including Jalisco state where rainfall this year had been low.
A 71-year-old woman drowned in Colima state after a strong current swept away the car in which she and her son were riding. Her son survived, Colima Gov. Mario Anguiano said.
In the neighboring state of Jalisco, Jova triggered a mudslide in the town of Cihuatlan, just inland from Barra de Navidad, that swept away a house on a hillside, killing a 21-year-old woman and her daughter, Jalisco civil protection officials said in a statement.
Farther northwest along the Mexican coast in the town of Tomatlan, about 12 miles from where Jova landed, a man and a teenage boy were killed when a wall of their home softened by heavy rains fell on them, officials said.
Also in Tomatlan, two children suffered head injuries when the walls of their brick home collapsed under the force of the wind and rains, said Oscar Mejia, spokesman for the Jalisco state Red Cross rescue division.
The new tropical depression formed in the Pacific off far-southern Mexico near the Guatemala border, with maximum sustained winds near 35 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported. The storm quickly moved ashore over Mexico and was expected to move slightly north before dissipating before day's end.
Flash flooding, mudslides
The storm was smaller and less powerful than Jova, but the mountainous terrain of southern Mexico state of Chiapas and neighboring Guatemala is particularly vulnerable to flash flooding and mudslides. Numerous Indian villages perch precariously on hillsides.
A fishing boat with nine Indonesian fishermen ran aground off the coast of Chiapas, the Mexican navy said in a statement. Seven men were rescued but marines were searching for two others late Wednesday. The seven suffered only minor injuries, the navy said.
Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom blamed rain from the storm for the deaths of 13 people in his country. At least four of those were electrocuted when contacted power lines, Colom said. Others died in mudslides or were swept away by swollen rivers.
National Hurricane Center forecaster John Cangialosi said the rains in Guatemala probably were linked to the tropical depression, even though it had not yet hit land.
"If they're in Guatemala, they're pretty close to the circulation center of the system, and it has been a very slow-moving system ... so it's likely linked to this feature," Cangialosi said.
Toppled trees and inundated vehicles are caught in floodwaters in Villa de las Garzas, Mexico, on Wednesday.
Farther north on Mexico's coast, flooding from Jova was so bad in Cihuatlan that the Red Cross office had to be evacuated because it was filled with 4 feet of water.
Mexico's navy said it evacuated a total of 2,600 people in flood-prone areas hit by Jova, and set up kitchens at shelters to feed 1,600 evacuees.
The approach of Jova led authorities to close the port in Manzanillo, which is Mexico's second-biggest non-oil cargo port. The storm flooded some neighborhoods in the city and brought down power lines and billboards. Flooding knocked out at least one bridge and destroyed stretches of highways leading out of Manzanillo.
'Like a dam about to burst'
The federal Communications and Transportation Department said that several roads were damages by the storm and that landslides and flooding blocked three main highways connecting cities in Jalisco and Colima states.
Israel Arriaga, 38, rode out the hurricane with his wife and two children in the Valle de las Garzas neighborhood of Manzanillo, where at least one home collapsed and water rose waist-high.
Around 2 a.m., Arriaga said, "I heard a very loud noise. It was the water coming in." There were strange flashes of lightning, he added, and "the waves sounded like a dam about to burst."
The home of retired soldier Ernesto Huerta, 55, in Valle de las Garzas was flooded knee-high with water. Huerta had put his furniture up on bricks in advance, but didn't evacuate.
The U.S. hurricane center said Jova weakened steadily as it moved inland and was downgraded to a tropical depression by afternoon, with winds of 35 mph. It was moving north at about 6 mph.
Jova passed about 12 miles inland from Puerto Vallarta, where officials piled sandbags and tarps across beach volleyball court that will be used in the Pan American Games that start Friday.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Irwin lost strength farther out in the Pacific with winds near 40 mph. While it was expected to move eastward toward land, forecasts called for it to begin curling away from shore Thursday and head back into the Pacific.
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