Hurricane Grace slams Mexico's Gulf coast, killing 8 in flooding and mudslides
Weakened to tropical storm as it moved across country's mountainous interior
Hurricane Grace pummelled Mexico with torrential rain on Saturday, causing severe flooding and mudslides that killed at least eight people after it became one of the most powerful storms in years to hit the country's Gulf coast, authorities said.
Grace was whipping up maximum sustained winds of 201 km/h, a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, when it slammed into the coast near the resort of Tecolutla in Veracruz state in the early morning before weakening to a tropical storm.
Tropical Storm <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Grace?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Grace</a> Advisory 33: Grace Weakening Rapidly Over Land But Still Causing Very Heavy Rains and Flooding Over Portions of East-Central Mexico. <a href="https://t.co/VqHn0u1vgc">https://t.co/VqHn0u1vgc</a>—@NHC_Atlantic
The state government said eight people were killed, including six from one family, and three people were missing. All but one of the victims died in the state capital Xalapa, including a young girl killed in a mudslide that hit her home, the government said.
As well, an adult died after a roof collapsed in the city of Poza Rica further north in the state, Veracruz Gov. Cuitlahuac Garcia told a news conference.
"The state of emergency has not ended," he added.
Local television showed severe flooding in Xalapa, with coffins from a local business floating down a waterlogged
street. The nearby River Actopan burst its banks, shutting down a local highway, state authorities said.
Grace also caused power outages and brought down trees. Images on social media showed damage to buildings and cars submerged by the deluge of rain the storm brought.
Garcia said several rivers in Veracruz would flood, and he urged the local population to take cover.
Television footage also showed flooding in Ciudad Madero in the southern reaches of the state of Tamaulipas, near the border of Veracruz. Mexican state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos's (Pemex) Francisco Madero refinery is in Ciudad Madero.
Some flights cancelled, outages reported
Mexico City's international airport said some flights were cancelled due to the hurricane. National power utility the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) reported 565,000 electricity users were affected by outages.
Grace weakened quickly as it moved across Mexico's mountainous interior, becoming a tropical storm, with top winds of 75 km/h. The centre was about 55 kilometres northwest of Mexico City, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Before Grace hit land, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged people in the states of Veracruz, Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas and Hidalgo to get to higher ground or shelters.
Many appear to have heeded the call.
Grace misses oil installations
The NHC has forecast that Grace would dump 15 to 30 centimetres of rain over swaths of eastern and central Mexico, and up to 45 centimetres in some areas, through Sunday. The heavy rainfall will likely cause areas of flash and urban flooding, it said.
Veracruz and its waters are home to several oil installations, including Pemex's port in Coatzacoalcos and its Lazaro Cardenas refinery in Minatitlan, in the south.
Grace hit land well to the north of these cities.
Earlier in the week, Grace pounded Mexico's Caribbean coast, downing trees and causing power outages for nearly 700,000 people, but without causing loss of life, authorities said.
It also doused Jamaica and Haiti, still reeling from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, with torrential rain.
With files from The Associated Press