Is Mexico ready for Hurricane Patricia?

Hurricane Patricia loses its force in Mexico

One of the strongest cyclones in Mexico's history weakened after reaching the mainland during the night. The US hurricane center NHC announced that the storm "Patricia" is now only classified as Category 2 and thus as moderate. Before that, "Patricia" had still reached wind speeds of 210 kilometers per hour on land. "Patricia" moved from the Pacific coast in a north-northeast direction inland. President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a televised address late in the evening that, according to initial reports, the damage appeared to be less than expected from such a hurricane.

Trees and billboards fell over in the port city of Manzanillo, Colima state. "The risk remains high," said Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong after the cyclone hit land in Tenacatita Bay. "Protect yourself and follow the instructions of the civil defense," wrote President Peña Nieto on Twitter.

The cyclone was the strongest hurricane ever. On the open sea, as a category 5 hurricane, it reached wind speeds of up to 400 kilometers per hour in the gusts, as the Mexican weather service announced - a record. "Patricia" was even stronger than the super typhoon "Haiyan", which killed 7,350 people in the Philippines in November 2013. When the hurricane hit the coast near the town of Emiliano Zapata, it had already weakened slightly with wind speeds of 270 kilometers per hour. Overland he continued to lose momentum. Serious damage from the states of Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit were initially not reported, as civil protection chief Luis Felipe Puente said.

Escape inland

The Mexican authorities called on the population to seek shelter in emergency shelters. The government moved numerous soldiers and police officers to the danger area. Collection points for donations in kind and food have been set up across the country.

In anticipation of the storm, the ports on the Pacific coast were closed on Friday, school lessons were canceled and thousands of people were brought to safety. A total of around 400,000 people live in the affected region in Mexico, and thousands of foreign tourists have stayed on the coast. Numerous people fled inland.

Residents of evacuated areas arrive at the emergency shelters at the University of Puerto Vallarta on Friday (Photo: Reuters)

The United States offered aid to neighboring Mexico in the face of the super storm. "Our thoughts go with the Mexican people. USAID (the development aid agency) disaster experts are there and ready to help," wrote US President Barack Obama on Twitter.

In the resort of Puerto Vallarta, around 28,000 tourists were brought to safety, as the tourism minister of the state of Jalisco, Enrique Ramos, told the Excélsior newspaper. The majority had been housed in emergency shelters. Around 1200 vacationers were therefore brought to the provincial capital Guadalajara. The residents and business people of the region also took precautions and clad the windows of their houses with wooden panels. However, the rain and wind subsided in the coastal city during the day.

Civil defense chief Puente called on the population to secure loose objects that "could turn into projectiles". The weather service warned of a rise in the water level, which could lead to severe flooding. Precipitation of up to 500 millimeters and landslides were expected in several states.

stu / wl (afp, dpa)