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Evacuations as hurricane looms

Mexican authorities have moved hundreds of people out of isolated mountain communities and low-lying shore areas as a strong Hurricane Raymond loomed off the already storm-battered southern Pacific coast.

Guerrero state Governor Angel Aguirre urged people to stay off the streets, roads and highways today because of potentially dangerous rain from the Category 3 storm that meandered offshore.

"The phenomenon's behaviour is completely erratic, completely unpredictable," Mr Aguirre said last night.

Although forecasts predicted that Raymond's centre would not come ashore, the storm still threatened to push heavy rain over the soaked region, which suffered widespread damage last month from floods and landslides set off by Tropical Storm Manuel.

There were no reports of torrential rain yesterday, but sporadic rain fell in some parts of the state and some streets flooded in soaked Acapulco, where city workers reinforced roads with sandbags. In the nearby town of Coyuca, a bridge was closed to traffic as an already swollen river began spilling over its banks.

Authorities in Guerrero, where Manuel caused about 120 deaths, set up 700 emergency shelters after the storm sprang up on Sunday. Schools in most coastal communities west of Acapulco, including Zihuatanejo, were kept closed.

The US National Hurricane Centre said the hurricane had maximum sustained winds of about 120mph (195kph) and was creeping north at 2mph (3.2kph). The storm's centre was about 85 miles (137km) south-southwest of Zihuatanejo early today. Forecasters said it was expected to follow an erratic path over the next day, possibly getting closer to the coast, then turn sharply westwards and head out into the Pacific tomorrow.

Zihuatanejo officials went door to door in hillside communities to warn residents about the risk of flash floods and mudslides, but nobody voluntarily evacuated to the three shelters set up in schools and athletic facilities, municipal firefighter Jesus Guatemala said. Tourists continued to stroll through town in light, intermittent rains.

Forecasters said that even if Raymond stayed offshore as predicted, the storm could dump anything from 4in (10.2cm) to 12in (30.5cm) of rain over Guerrero and Michoacan states, and cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides along the south-central Mexican coast.

About 50 dams in the area were over capacity because of Manuel, and officials were releasing water to make room for the expected rainfall.

About 10,000 people in Guerrero are already living away from their homes a month after Manuel inundated whole neighbourhoods and caused landslides that buried much of one village. It left behind drenched hillsides which pose serious landslide risks.

A hurricane warning was in effect from Tecpan de Galeana, up the coast from Acapulco, north to the port of Lazaro Cardenas. A tropical storm warning was posted from Acapulco to Tecpan.

AP

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