Hurricane Newton crashes into Mexico resort

A zone affected by flooding caused by heavy rains from Hurricane Newton, in Benito Juarez, Mexico, Sept 5, 2016.
A zone affected by flooding caused by heavy rains from Hurricane Newton, in Benito Juarez, Mexico, Sept 5, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

LA PAZ, Mexico (AFP) - Hurricane Newton charged across Mexico's northwestern resort of Los Cabos on Tuesday (Sept 6), blowing away trees and tin roofs but apparently sparing the region of major damage as thousands of tourists hunkered down.

The storm packed winds of 145kmh when it made landfall before dawn at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula.

But the region prized by American and Canadian tourists seemingly dodged a bullet, two years after a deadly Hurricane Odile ravaged Los Cabos.

"According to the latest reports, #Newton only caused minor damages in infrastructure," President Enrique Pena Nieto wrote on Twitter, adding that there were no injuries.

The US National Hurricane Centre reported at midday that Newton was "slowly weakening" as it moved north through the state of Baja California Sur, but that there were still strong winds and heavy rains.

The storm's winds decreased to 120 kilometers per hour as it swirled some 125km north-west of La Paz, the state capital, the Miami-based forecaster said in its latest bulletin.

Los Cabos civil protection director Marco Antonio Vazquez said Newton's winds took down trees and tin roofs from poorer neighborhoods, and that power went out before dawn.

Newton's winds broke some hotel windows, but the 14,000 tourists in Los Cabos were "safe" in rooms made to shelter them within the facilities, said state tourism secretary Genaro Ruiz Hernandez.

"It would appear that we won't have major damage except for what we have already reported," national civil protection coordinator Luis Felipe Puente told Milenio television.

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

Newton made landfall just eight kilometers from Los Cabos.

Some 1,500 people took refuge in shelters in the resort town and some began to return home, Vazquez said.

Police said five people were arrested for trying to loot two convenience stores in Los Cabos.

Officers guarded several shops to prevent the kind of looting that was seen after Odile struck.

While all highways were accessible, Puente urged "the population not to leave their homes if it is not necessary." Local airports closed late Monday, while small boats were barred from using the ports in case of a storm surge in low-lying areas areas. Schools were shut down.

North of Los Cabos, in La Paz, where trees also fell, locals put tape on shop windows and 400 people were evacuated from vulnerable areas.

The eye of Newton is forecast to cross Baja California Sur before entering the Gulf of California and making a second landfall into the Mexican mainland on Wednesday.

"We didn't expect Newton to enter the national territory. We didn't expect it to become a hurricane," Roberto Ramirez, director of the National Water Commission, told Radio Formula.

"It has had very erratic behavior since it emerged on Friday as a (weather) disturbance." The storm is due to produce up to 30cm of rain in Baja California Sur and as much as 25cm in several Pacific coast states, which could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the US hurricane centre said.

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

The weather system caused damage in the country's south over the weekend before it became a tropical storm, flooding 1,400 homes in Guerrero state and leaving three dead in Chiapas.