Hurricane Grace slams Mexico's Gulf coast, killing 8 in flooding and mudslides

Hurricane Grace pummelled Mexico with torrential rain on Saturday, causing severe flooding and mudslides that killed at least eight people after becoming one of the most powerful storms in years to hit the Gulf coast, authorities said.

Weakened to tropical storm as it moved across country's mountainous interior

Winds brought on by Hurricane Grace in Tecolutla, Mexico, on Saturday caused severe damage, including to this home, and killed several people before weakening to a tropical storm. (Felix Marquez/The Associated Press)

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.

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.

A man inspects damage to his home in Tecolutla after part of it was toppled by winds. (Felix Marquez/The Associated Press)

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.

A woman stands amid the debris of her destroyed home in Costa Esmeralda on Saturday. (Yahir Ceballos/Reuters)

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.

Banana trees were toppled at a plantation in Costa Esmeralda on Saturday. (Yahir Ceballos/Reuters)

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