Storm sends massive waves crashing ashore along Pacific coast

MASSIVE waves generated by a storm 2,000 miles away battered a long stretch of the Pacific coast yesterday, wrecking homes, hotels and restaurants from Peru to Central America.

There were no reports of deaths from the several days of heavy surf, but hundreds of people were evacuated from coastal communities. Lesser damage also was reported in southern Mexico.

Experts said the event was not a tsunami, the massive waves triggered by undersea earthquakes.

Hugh Cobb, a meteorologist at the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami, said the waves were caused by a powerful South Pacific storm sending swells up to 12 feet high across the ocean, hitting beaches from Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands to the Mexican resort of Acapulco.

He said the worst of the heavy waves was over. “We expect them to gradually subside over the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said.

Waves along Guatemala’s western shore destroyed a small hotel frequented by surfers, a few restaurants and about 50 houses in Sipacate, 60 miles from Guatemala City, emergency officials said.

“The sea took away eight rooms and part of the restaurant, which was made of wood,” said Brigido de Paz, the hotel manager. “The kitchen and the rooms that were made of concrete are flooded and damaged.”

In Nicaragua, 15-foot waves carried water up to 100 yards inland and destroyed about 20 small homes in Puerto Corinto, civil defence official William Rodriguez said. Authorities evacuated 200 people.

A few dozen people were evacuated in El Salvador, where waves up to 20 feet were reported and sand was washed into rustic seaside businesses.

Costa Rican authorities reported minor flooding in several coastal communities. Twenty families were evacuated in Palo Seco de Parrita, 185 miles south of the capital, San Jose, the National Emergency Commission said.

In Acapulco, knee-deep water engulfed two miles of the resort’s coastal boulevard and seawater sloshed inside beachfront restaurants and nightclubs.

Jorge Pacheco, director of civil protection in Acapulco, said the swells began hitting on Monday and officials issued warnings to stay out of the ocean.

In Mexico’s Oaxaca state, high water flooded businesses and hotels in Zicatela, near the resort of Huatulco. The army evacuated 200 people and closed some 85 businesses, officials said.

Heavy surf over the weekend also wrecked 11 houses and damaged 110 more in Peru.

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