Hurricane hits Mexico from west

100,000 are evacuated

floods, landslides likely


CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - One of the strongest Pacific storms to strike Mexico in decades roared ashore yesterday, threatening thousands of people and hundreds of villages.

Federal and state officials said they had evacuated close to 100,000 people in coastal cities and towns from south of Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta, two prominent tourist sites.

In and around San Blas, a fishing and tourist town near the center of the storm's landfall, hundreds of homes were reported damaged or destroyed, and thousands of people braced for the threat of flooding and landslides.

One death was reported in the first hours, but officials said the storm's full impact on rural regions would not be clear until the weekend. They forecast up to 10 inches of rain last night in Durango and Zacatecas states and warned of flash floods, mudslides and dam breaks.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center called the hurricane, named Kenna, the third-strongest recorded storm to strike Mexico from the Pacific.

The hurricane missed by 180 miles a gathering of world leaders here in Cabo San Lucas, on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where President Bush was to arrive this morning.

The storm's sustained winds dropped from a potentially catastrophic 160 mph to about 140 mph as it struck land about 1 p.m. The winds died down to 80 mph as it moved on a northeastern course across the country toward the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane center said the storm could emerge near the Texas coast along the gulf.

The storm downed trees and power lines, knocked out electricity and telephone service and blocked the main coastal highway near Tepic, the capital of Nayarit state.

Among the thousands of evacuees, many were afraid that they would return home to find their life's possessions lost.

"When I found out that the hurricane would hit us, I became really scared because I live in a plywood house and I have six children," said Antonio Romero, 29, a construction worker who huddled in a government shelter in Puerto Vallarta with his wife and family.

"Besides that, it has cost me a lot of work to afford a few things, like a radio. Probably the hurricane has taken everything."

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