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Southern Mexico facing perils of Pauline

High Surf

Homes blown away as hurricane hits

HUATULCO, Mexico (CNN) -- Hurricane Pauline came ashore on Mexico's southern Pacific Coast Wednesday, toppling homes and trees and dumping a foot of rain on resort areas in Oaxaca state.

Wind gusts were reported up to 120 miles per hour (192 km per hour) and 30-foot waves (9-meter) were crashing on beaches as residents braced for flash flooding and mudslides. The eye of the hurricane came ashore west of Huatulco, not far from Puerto Angel, and was moving the northwest at about 7 miles per hour (11.2 km per hour).

Hurricane Pauline
Time2 a.m. PDT / 5 a.m. EDT
Location30 mi (50 km) NNW of Acapulco
Lat./Lon.17.1 N latitude
100.0 W longitude
Winds105 mph (165 km/hr)
SpeedWNW near 15 mph (24 km/hr)
Current satellite image

U.S. officials warned the unexpected fierceness of the onslaught could cost many lives.

"There aren't too many hurricanes that make landfall with this intensity in the Pacific," Ed Rappaport of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

"I would expect there to be considerable damage, heavy flooding and unfortunately there's a possibility of significant loss of life."

Red Cross workers reported no immediate injuries, but at least 30 homes built of plywood and cardboard were blown away in Huatulco.

The storm uprooted palm trees and downed power lines. In Huatulco, witnesses said antennas at the local television station were blown over.

Puerto Angel, a fishing village of 5,000 people 310 miles (496 km) southeast of Mexico City, was at one point reportedly cut off from communication with the outside world, as was a naval base there.

In Huatulco, a resort city, hotels relocated guests to banquet halls and other temporary shelters. At one hotel, the guests played cards as the storm raged.

Up and down the Oaxacan coast, officials prepared 50 schools to house up to 10,000 storm refugees. Civil defense troops, carrying supplies of food, patrolled the coastline.

Mexico's officials news agency, Notimex, said a wide swath of the southern Mexican coastline -- from Tapachula in Chiapas state to Punta Maldonado in Guerrero state -- had been declared a danger zone.

"Really, we're not prepared for this kind of situation because luckily we haven't hit by the phenomenon before," said Alfonso Cervantes Duran, the top elected official in Puerto Angel. "A lot of people don't know what a hurricane is all about. Most of them think it'll just be a hard rain."

There have been an unusual number of powerful storms in the eastern Pacific this year -- six named hurricanes of Category 3 or higher, almost double the usual number.

The increased activity is attributed to El Nino, a weather phenomenon in which the waters of the Pacific Ocean are warmer than usual.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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