Looting erupts after hurricane thrashes Mexico

2014-09-15 20:44
Hurricane Odile approaches Los Cabos, Mexico. (Victor R Caivano, AP)

Hurricane Odile approaches Los Cabos, Mexico. (Victor R Caivano, AP)

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Cabo San Lucas - Looters took food and water from shops in Mexico's Los Cabos beach resorts on Monday after Hurricane Odile blew away wooden homes, flooded streets and damaged hotels housing thousands of tourists.

Dozens of people, including children, ransacked at least five small convenience stores, making off with batteries and alcoholic drinks, before troops arrived to stop the looting in poorer neighbourhoods of Baja California peninsula.

"I'm taking water for the children and food for the baby. You never know what can happen tomorrow," Osvaldo Lopez, 41, said as he left a store.

Odile tore down trees, power lines and tin roofs as it crashed ashore late on Sunday as a category three hurricane in the five-scale Saffir-Simpson scale, packing winds of 205km/h.

The hurricane weakened to category two strength as it moved up the peninsula, but it was still launching winds of 155km/h, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.

Scores of homes were wrecked in an impoverished district while electricity poles collapsed onto cars, but no victims were immediately reported.

Soledad Mayo, 52, said she sent four of her children to a neighbour's sturdier home while she stayed in her wooden house with her husband even as Odile destroyed its roof and walls.

"We spent the night standing there, waiting to see what would be left of our house. But look, it took everything," said the shopkeeper as a microwave and other household objects lay on the rubble.

Odile caused streams to overflow. Flood waters carried away cars and refrigerators.

The storm did not spare luxury hotels, breaking windows, flooding rooms and sending palm trees into one swimming pool. In one hotel, workers tried to stop the water with towels.

"I'm disappointed about my vacation, but above all my heart aches for the people from here who lost everything," said Tifani Brown, a 34-year-old American tourist who had arrived Sunday from California.

"It's one thing to see hurricanes on TV. It's another to live them," she said.

I'm not afraid

Around 24 000 foreign tourists and 6 000 Mexican beach goers spent the night in hotels where conference rooms were transformed into shelters.

As many as 7 000 residents were evacuated from vulnerable areas and took refuge in shelters or with relatives, officials said.

Gordon Peter, a 65-year-old US tourist, had been in Los Cabos for a week when his flight home was cancelled.

"I'm not afraid but I want to go home," he said before spending the night in a hotel lobby because he could not find another room.

On Monday, Odile was swirling northward over rugged terrain at 22km/h, producing heavy rain that could trigger more flooding, the US hurricane centre said.

The storm was expected to weaken steadily as it moves over or just off Baja California through Wednesday.

Operations at local airports were suspended.

Authorities cut power in some towns to prevent electrocutions, closed schools and called off independence day festivities.

Hundreds of troops were deployed to help the population.

Steady rain soaked the peninsula and forecasters predicted accumulations of up to 300mm through Friday, raising the risk of deadly floods and mudslides.

The hurricane hit the Pacific coast around the one-year anniversary of a twin tropical storm battering on both coasts that left 157 people dead.

Read more on:    mexico  |  weather  |  hurricanes

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