Hurricane Odile slams Mexico's Baja California
Storm damage devastates locals, forces thousands of tourists into temporary shelters
Hurricane Odile blazed a trail of destruction through Mexico's Baja California Peninsula on Monday that leveled everything from ramshackle homes to luxury hotels and big box stores, leaving entire neighbourhoods as disaster zones.
About 30,000 tourists were being put up in temporary shelters in hotels and Los Cabos international airport remained closed. Emergency officials reported that 135 people were treated for minor injuries from flying glass or falling objects, but there were no serious injuries or deaths so far.
The Mexican government said in a statement Monday night that army and commercial planes would be sent to La Paz and Los Cabos airports to get tourists out of the area.
Odile, which made landfall near Cabo San Lucas the previous night as a powerful Category 3 hurricane, toppled trees, power poles and road signs along the main highway, which at one point was swamped by rushing floodwaters. Countless windows were blown out of rental cars and high-end hotel rooms, and resort facades crumbled to the ground.
"From what we have seen around here, everything is pretty much destroyed," said Alejandro Tealdi, a 32-year-old resident of Cabo San Lucas. His home was damaged and suffered some flooding, but nobody was hurt. "In the seven years I've been here, I've never seen anything hit like this."
Luis Felipe Puente, national coordinator for Civil Protection, said most of the area's power poles were blown over, leaving 239,000 people in the state of Baja California Sur without electricity. Many were also without drinkable water. Ports were closed.
"It's the entire corridor" between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, said Deneb Poli, a medical worker at the Hotel Melia Cabo Real. She said the resort's guests and employees were fine, but electricity and phone lines were down and cellphone coverage was spotty. "There are parts of hotels that are completely collapsed. ... The damage is pretty extensive."
Charly Park, 52, flew in from Los Angeles on Sunday but instead of checking into his hotel room, he and his wife spent the night at a cramped, hot shelter.
"It's a horrible experience, no air conditioning, no fans ... the power lines all fell down," Park said.
Many homes and businesses were reduced to shells with only the core structure intact. The walls of an OfficeMax collapsed into the parking lot. A convenience store was torn apart with the contents of its shelves dumped to the ground, and some locals helped themselves to food, water and other goods.
"The most important thing was the force of the wind," Puente said. "That was the central element that hurt Los Cabos."
In Colonia Unidad Real, a neighbourhood that sprang up years ago in a former creek bed, hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed with debris scattered everywhere.
After spending a harrowing night with her in-laws, Graciela Castillo Monroy, 44, and her family returned to find the roof of their home gone and all but two of its cinderblock walls collapsed. They piled what belongings could be salvaged atop a soggy mattress and began picking up the pieces.
"Well, time to start over again," Monroy said. "Because we don't have any other option but to forge ahead."
Odile continued to lash the state of Baja California Sur with strong winds and heavy rains as it marched northward, but it weakened to a Category 1 hurricane and was expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm late Monday night.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm had maximum sustained winds near 120 km/h Monday evening. It was centered about 50 kilometres south of Loreto and moving to the north-northwest at 19 km/h.
Odile was expected to drop 15 to 30 centimetres of rain with isolated accumulations of up to 45 centimetres, threatening to unleash dangerous flash floods and landslides.
"We have many flooded streets and are maintaining five shelters with between 500 and 800 evacuees," said Eduardo Bautista, director of Civil Protection in the state capital, La Paz. "So far we have no casualties."
A hurricane warning was in effect from Punta Abreojos to Santa Rosalia.
Meanwhile in the central Atlantic, Hurricane Edouard strengthened to a Category 2 storm Monday with maximum sustained winds near 175 km/h, although it was forecast to remain far out at sea and pose no threat to land.
The U.S. hurricane centre said Edouard's centre was 930 kilometres east-southeast of Bermuda and was moving northwest at 20 km/h.