Hurricane Newton smashes into Mexico resorts

Floodwaters cover the streets after Hurricane Newton brought heavy rains to Benito Juarez, Mexico, on Sept 5, 2016.
Floodwaters cover the streets after Hurricane Newton brought heavy rains to Benito Juarez, Mexico, on Sept 5, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

LA PAZ (AFP) - Hurricane Newton battered Mexico's north-western resort of Los Cabos on Tuesday (Sept 6), tearing down trees and blowing away tin roofs as thousands of tourists and locals hunkered down.

The powerful storm packed 145 kmh winds when it made landfall before dawn at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, two years after Hurricane Odile ravaged the region.

The US National Hurricane Centre said Newton was "pounding Baja California Sur with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains".

"The winds are very strong," Los Cabos civil protection director Marco Antonio Vazquez told AFP by telephone. "We don't have light right now."

"For now the damage includes a lot of branches, a lot of fallen plants, many trees," Mr Vazquez said, adding that he also saw telephone cables as well as tin roofs from poorer neighborhoods on the streets.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Some 14,000 tourists are in Los Cabos and about 1,000 elsewhere in the region. There was no immediate information about the situation at hotels.

Some 1,500 people took refuge in shelters in Los Cabos, Mr Vazquez said.

Local airports closed late on Monday while small boats were barred from using the ports, with a storm surge expected to hit low-lying areas. Schools were shut down.

In La Paz, the capital of the state of Baja California Sur north of Los Cabos, locals put tape on shop windows and filled their cars with gasoline as the hurricane approached.

The US hurricane centre's latest bulletin placed the eye of Newton 80.5km north-west of Cabo San Lucas, one of the region's resorts. It was just 8km from the town when it made landfall.

Los Cabos, famed for its beaches and nightlife, was pummelled in September 2014 by Hurricane Odile which left six people dead and caused US$1 billion in damage.

The eye of Hurricane Newton is forecast to cross Baja California Sur before moving into the northwestern Mexico mainland on Wednesday morning.

The US centre said the storm should still be at hurricane strength when it makes landfall a second time after crossing over the Gulf of California, which lies between the peninsula and the Mexican mainland.

The government of the state of Baja California Sur opened shelters with room for 16,000 people after the tropical storm was reclassified as a hurricane.

The storm is due to produce up to 30cm of rain in Baja California Sur and as much as 25.4cm in several Pacific coast states, which could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the US hurricane center said.

A "dangerous" storm surge was expected to cause significant coastal flooding, it added.

Newton threatened to cause more mudslides and flooding in eight states along the Pacific coast, the Mexican authorities said, adding that thousands of shelters were readied.

The weather system caused damage in the country's south over the weekend before it became a tropical storm, with heavy rain blamed for three deaths in the southern state of Chiapas.

Floods and landslides damaged or affected some 70 homes and schools and trapped around 200 people in Acapulco, the resort in the south-western state of Guerrero.

Torrential rain that began Saturday morning flooded some 1,400 homes and caused more than 30 landslides on highways in Guerrero, the civil protection authorities said.

Heavy rainfall trapped around 200 people in a housing complex, prompting air evacuations by police, marines and the army.