Mexico airlifts tourists stranded by hurricane

Mexico airlifts tourists stranded by hurricane
Fishermen prepare to pull their boats to the shore as palm trees are blown by wind caused by Tropical Storm Polo in Acapulco.

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - Mexican military and commercial airplanes began Tuesday to airlift tourists stranded in the Los Cabos resorts after Hurricane Odile left luxury hotels and communities in tatters.

Some 30,000 tourists have been waiting for a ride out of the devastated zone in Baja California peninsula after Odile rolled across the region Sunday and Monday before being downgraded to a tropical storm.

Without open service stations to fuel cars or public transport, hundreds of people walked to the heavily damaged Los Cabos airport, pulling their luggage behind them for a chance to catch a flight.

"I've been standing in line for almost an hour under this infernal heat, but it's worth it to get out of here," said Sheilla Roach, a US university student who was supposed to go home Sunday, the night the hurricane struck.

The airport, along with the region's other international terminal in La Paz, were left inoperable after the storm. The Los Cabos terminal lost power and a ceiling collapsed while windows were broken.

The federal police said one of its planes took 137 people to Mazatlan. Mexican airline Interjet sent a plane for 150 passengers. The armed forces deployed jets to take people to Tijuana and Mexico City.

US, British and Canadian consular officials went to the area to support their citizens.

Odile struck late Sunday, forcing some 26,000 foreigners and 4,000 Mexican beachgoers to take shelter in area hotels.

But even well-fortified resorts were not spared the fury of the hurricane, which smashed hotel windows, flooded rooms and sent palm trees flying into swimming pools.

Officials said nobody died in the storm but some 135 people suffered relatively light injuries such as cuts.

Outside the airport, a convenience store was distributing food and water to passersby.

While tourists were escaping the region, residents were left surveying the damage left by Odile.

Scores of wood-plank and tin-roof homes were flattened in one neighborhood. Trees and power lines collapsed on homes and cars while the storm cut off power and running water.

Odile also sparked an outbreak of looting that left electronic stores ransacked and supermarkets bereft of necessities like water, food and toilet paper.

New threat

While Odile was now a tropical storm, the US National Hurricane Center said it was still producing heavy rains over portions of Baja California, northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States.

The storm was packing winds of 85 kilometers (50 miles) per hour and the downpour was likely to cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the Miami-based centre said.

And while Odile was heading north, a new tropical storm, dubbed Polo, formed off Mexico's southwestern coast and was expected to become a hurricane late Wednesday, the US forecaster said.

Late Tuesday, Polo was 375 kilometers (235 miles) southwest of Acapulco, the legendary resort in Guerrero state, which was devastated by a deadly hurricane around this time last year.

Packing winds of 85 kilometers per hour, Polo was expected to remain offshore as it creeps northward parallel to the Pacific coast.


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