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Hurricane threatens Mexican coast

Hurricane Raymond has strengthened to a Category 3 storm and threatens to hurl more heavy rain on to a sodden region of Mexico's Pacific Coast already devastated by last month's Tropical Storm Manuel.

The US National Hurricane Centre said the newly formed storm had nearly stalled offshore, with winds of about 120mph. Raymond was centred about 115 miles south of the beach resort of Zihuatanejo, and was expected to move only a little closer to the coast before veering back out to sea on Wednesday.

In Zihuatanejo, next to the neighbouring resort of Ixtapa, authorities went door-to-door in hillside communities, warning residents about the risks of floods and mudslides, but nobody had voluntarily evacuated yet to three storm shelters set up in the town's schools and athletic facilities, said firefighter Jesus Guatemala.

Amid light, intermittent rain, tourists continued to stroll the town, albeit under cloudy skies.

Mexican authorities rushed to deploy emergency crews and said they were considering evacuations of low-lying areas. About 10,000 people were 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 that posed serious landslide risks.

David Korenfeld, head of Mexico's National Water Commission, said officials were pinning their hopes on a cold front moving from the north that could help steer Raymond away from the coast.

"The cold front coming down is what makes it (Raymond) turn to the left, but that is a model," Mr Korenfeld said. "If that cold front comes down more slowly, this tropical storm ... can get closer to the coast."

Forecasters said that even if Raymond stays offshore, the storm could dump heavy rain and cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides along the south-central Mexican coast.

"There will be rain for the next 72 hours along the Pacific coast - very heavy rain, torrential rain," Mr Korenfeld said.

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.

Authorities in the southern state of Guerrero, where Manuel caused about 120 deaths from flooding and landslides in September, closed seaports, set up 700 emergency shelters and urged residents in risk areas to take precautions.

Officials were expected to decide soon whether to order more evacuations, including from low-lying areas of Acapulco that flooded during Manuel.

The state cancelled classes in most coastal communities west of Acapulco, including Zihuatanejo. Schools are often used as emergency shelters in Mexico.

The potential for damage from such rain is high. About 50 dams in the area are still over capacity, and officials began releasing water to make room for expected rainfall.

Some villages high in the mountains of Guerrero were still without electricity and phone services following Manuel.

In Zihuatanejo authorities sent emergency personnel into low-lying areas to warn people to seek safer ground, said Miguel Quiroz, a local Red Cross dispatcher.


From Belfast Telegraph