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article imageHurricane Newton roars across Mexico resort

By Pedro Juarez Mejia (AFP)     Sep 6, 2016 in Environment

Hurricane Newton charged across Mexico's northwestern resort of Los Cabos on Tuesday, 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 145 kilometers (90 miles) an hour 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 killed six people and caused $1 billion damage in September 2014.

"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 Center reported later in the afternoon that Newton's winds weakened to 120 kilometers per hour as it moved north, drenching the peninsula as well as mainland Mexico's northwest coast.

Los Cabos civil protection director Marco Antonio Vazquez said Newton's winds took down trees and tin roofs from poorer neighborhoods.

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.

Power went out in parts of Los Cabos and La Paz, while phone service was disrupted.

"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.

- Looting attempts -

Newton was 25 kilometers southwest of the Baja town of Loreto, the Miami-based hurricane center said in its latest bulletin.

Newton is forecast to enter the Gulf of California and make a second landfall into the Mexican mainland on Wednesday before reaching the US state of Arizona that afternoon.

The hurricane made landfall just eight kilometers from Los Cabos.

Hurricane Newton
Hurricane Newton
Gustavo Izus, AFP

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.

- Second landfall -

Roberto Ramirez, director of the National Water Commission, told Radio Formula that authorities had not expected Newton to make landfall or become a hurricane.

"It has had very erratic behavior since it emerged on Friday as a (weather) disturbance," he said.

The storm is due to produce up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) of rain in Baja California Sur and as much as 25 centimeters in several Pacific coast states, which could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

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.

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