TECOLUTLA, MEXICO (REUTERS) – Hurricane Grace pummeled Mexico with torrential rain on Saturday (Aug 21), causing severe flooding and mudslides that killed at least eight people, the authorities said, after it became one of the most powerful storms in years to hit the country’s Gulf coast.
Grace was whipping up maximum sustained winds of 200kmh, a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, when it slammed into the coast near the resort of Tecolutla in Veracruz state in the early morning.
The state government said eight people were killed by Grace, including six from a single family. All but one of the victims died in the state capital Xalapa, including a young girl killed by a mudslide that hit her home, the government said.
Meanwhile, an adult was killed by a collapsed roof in the city of Poza Rica further north in the state, Veracruz Governor Cuitlahuac Garcia told a news conference.
“The state of emergency has not ended,” he added.
Local television showed severe flooding in Xalapa, with coffins from a local business floating down a waterlogged street. The nearby River Actopan burst its banks, shutting down a local highway, state authorities said.
Grace also caused power cuts and brought down trees. Images posted on social media showed damage to buildings and cars submerged by the deluge of rain the storm brought.
Mr Garcia said several rivers in Veracruz would flood, and urged the local population to take cover.
Television footage also showed flooding in Ciudad Madero in the southern reaches of the state of Tamaulipas, near the border of Veracruz. Mexican state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos’ (Pemex) Francisco Madero refinery is in Ciudad Madero.
Mexico City’s international airport said some flights were cancelled due to the hurricane.
National power utility Comision Federal de Electricidad reported 565,000 electricity users were affected by outages.
Grace weakened quickly as it moved across Mexico’s mountainous interior, and by 1pm Central Daylight Time (2am on Sunday, Singapore time) it was a tropical storm, with top winds of 75km).
The centre was about 55km north-west of Mexico City, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
Before Grace hit land, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged people in the states of Veracruz, Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas and Hidalgo to get to higher ground or shelters.
Many appear to have heeded the call.
The NHC forecast Grace would dump 15-30cm of rain over swathes of eastern and central Mexico to Sunday, and up to 45cm in some areas. The heavy rainfall will likely cause areas of flash and urban flooding, it said.
Veracruz and its waters are home to several oil installations, including Pemex’s port in Coatzacoalcos and its Lazaro Cardenas refinery in Minatitlan in the south.
Grace hit land well to the north of these cities.
Earlier last week, Grace pounded Mexico’s Caribbean coast, downing trees and causing power outages for nearly 700,000 people, but without causing loss of life, the authorities said.
It also doused Jamaica and Haiti, still reeling from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, with torrential rain.