PUERTO ESCONDIDO, MEXICO (REUTERS) - Hurricane Agatha barrelled toward southern Mexico's Pacific coast on Monday (May 30), threatening to lash beach resorts in the state of Oaxaca with torrential rains and flooding when it ploughs ashore later in the day.
A Category 2 storm and the first hurricane to form in the eastern Pacific this year, Agatha was blowing maximum sustained winds of 177kmh into mid-morning, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
Agatha is not expected to alter in strength much before reaching land this afternoon, the centre noted.
The eye of the storm should slam into the coast close to the beach getaways of Puerto Escondido and Mazunte, NHC projections show.
Authorities have set up 200 shelters along the coastal region of Oaxaca with capacity to shelter 26,000 people, according to local civil protection officials.
A hurricane warning is in effect from the port of Salina Cruz to Lagunas de Chacahua, the Miami-based NHC said.
Salina Cruz is the site of a major refinery run by state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
At 10am (1500 GMT), Agatha was about 80km southwest of Puerto Angel, and churning northeast at around 13kmh, according to the NHC.
Agatha is expected to dump 25-41 cm of rain on Oaxaca, and up to 50.8cm in some areas, which could spark lethal flash flooding and mudslides, the NHC said.
Heavy rains are also expected to douse the state of Chiapas, as well as Veracruz, Tabasco and eastern parts of Guerrero.
Agatha should weaken fast after hitting land and dissipate over southeastern Mexico by late Tuesday, the NHC said.