Hurricane Blas closes port in southern Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Hurricane Blas whirled off Mexico’s southern Pacific coast on Thursday, prompting a precautionary port closure in a region trying to recover from destruction brought by the season’s first big storm.

The US National Hurricane Center said Blas was centred about 355 kilometres south of Manzanillo, Mexico, on Thursday morning with maximum sustained winds 140 kph. It said the storm could strengthen somewhat, but it was not a threat to land. It was heading to the west-northwest at 13kph and was expected to remain over the ocean.

But forecasters said Blas could still bring dangerous surf to the coast, and the port captain of Puerto Escondido in the state of Oaxaca announced that port was closed to navigation as of Wednesday afternoon.

The region to the southeast of Puerto Escondido was battered when Hurricane Agatha, came ashore near Puerto Angel on May 30 with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph). Authorities said flooding and mudslides caused by Agatha’s heavy rains killed at least nine people, with five others missing and suspected to be dead.

The local military commander, Antonio Ramirez Escobedo, told the national newspaper Milenio that 17 towns or villages in the mountainous region remained cut off by road due to collapsed bridges, landslides or downed trees.

He said more than 100,000 people in 119 communities have suffered damage to their homes.

The federal Interior Department on Tuesday declared a state of disaster in 38 townships, making them eligible for priority deliveries of aid.