Mexico on flood alert after deadly hurricane

Authorities in central Mexico were on alert today for possible mudslides and flooding as the remnants of Hurricane Karl pushed inland hours after the storm swept on to the Gulf coast and killed two people.

Karl, which caused widespread property damage as a hurricane in the port city of Veracruz, weakened to a tropical depression last night.

It was dissipating over the mountains early today, but was still expected to produce up to another three inches of rain in some areas, the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said.

A landslide buried a house in the town of Nexticapan, killing a 61-year-old woman and two-year-old girl and injuring two other people, said Aru Becerra, a spokeswoman for civil protection in Puebla, a state bordering the Mexican capital.

Authorities across central Mexico prepared for possible flash floods and mudslides, while Mexico City officials put hospitals on alert and sent workers to evaluate hillside neighbourhoods and flood-risk zones.

Officials in the capital and nearby Cuernavaca put crews on alert and designated schools and other buildings as possible shelters. The Mexican capital was in a state of “blue alert”, meaning the risk was considered moderate, city civil protection secretary Elias Moreno said.

The storm had sustained winds of 115mph when it hit land at midday about 10 miles north-west of Veracruz. Its winds were down to 25mph by this morning.

Karl knocked down trees, billboards and power poles in Veracruz, making some streets unusable, said the city’s civil protection chief, Isidro Cano Luna. He said there had not been a storm like it since Hurricane Janet in 1955.

Veracruz state governor Fidel Herrera surveyed the heaviest damage in the coastal towns north of the port. Food huts along the beach were destroyed in the fishing town of Chachalaca. Ten homes collapsed or lost their roofs in Ursulo Galvan.

About 70 homes were flooded, and more than 22,000 people lost power, although electricity was restored to many neighbourhoods within hours.

“We went through several hours of anxiety but also of organisation, co-ordination,” Mr Herrera said.

“Fortunately, we are all still here. The death toll (in the state) was zero. This was my biggest challenge yet as governor.”

Local forecasters said the storm dumped eight inches of rain in the city in the first 90 minutes after arriving. Flights into Veracruz were cancelled, and public transport was shut down.

A stretch of coastal road farther north in Nautla was washed out.

State oil company Petroleos Mexicanos closed 14 production wells in the northern part of Veracruz state and evacuated workers from some platforms in the Gulf.

Workers were also evacuated from the shuttered Laguna Verde nuclear power plant, Mexico’s largest electricity producer, along with residents in the nearby town of Farallon and in the coastal towns of Cardel and Palma Sola.

The approach of the storm had Veracruz state jittery because about 80,000 people had their homes damaged and nine people were killed in flooding from previous heavy rains in the southern part of the state since August 19.

Out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Igor strengthened into a Category 2 storm and is on course to reach Bermuda late on Sunday.

Igor’s top winds were nearly 110mph early today, with further strengthening possible during the day.

It is on track to reach Bermuda on Sunday night and a hurricane warning is in effect.

Farther east over the Atlantic, Hurricane Julia weakened to a tropical storm, with winds decreasing to 60mph today.

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