Hurricane Jimena slammed into Mexico’s Baja California peninsula around midday on Wednesday, forcing tourists to either flee from 2009's strongest storm or take shelter in boarded-up hotels and emergency shelters.
AFP - Hurricane Jimena crashed Wednesday onto Mexico's Baja California peninsula, forcing thousands to seek shelter as it buffeted islands off the coast with high winds and heavy rain.
Resorts on the southern tip of the peninsula around Los Cabos were spared a direct hit from 2009's most powerful hurricane, but many villagers further north had to leave their homes and belongings and take refuge in shelters.
Jimena made landfall around midday packing winds of around 155 kilometers (96 miles) an hour, Mexican officials said.
"Most of the hurricane has reached land" at Puerto San Carlos in center of the Pacific coast peninsula, meterologist Monica Jimenez told AFP.
Earlier, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the storm had weakened to a Category Two hurricane.
Mexican officials reported a group of islands in Magdalena Bay had got a hammering from the storm with gusts above 125 miles per hour.
Having missed the southern resorts and La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur state, Jimena crossed land near the middle of the peninsula -- a sparsely populated area, home mostly to fishing communities.
While thousands of tourists had deserted the southern resorts in recent days, thousands of villagers and slum dwellers further north on the arid, mountainous peninsula had no choice but to tough it out.
Many refused to be cowed by the might of Jimena and defied pleas by the authorities to seek refuge, preferring to hunker down and stay home where they could guard their few possessions.
"Unfortunately we have families that are refusing to leave their homes, so if it becomes necessary, they will be evacuated by force for their own good," Francisco Cota, civil defense chief in Los Cabos, said on Tuesday.
Last-minute thrill-seekers had dipped Tuesday into the massive surf of Palmilla Beach, while officials struggled to convince local inhabitants of the poor, largely arid and mountainous spit of land to seek emergency shelter.
Regional authorities prepared 147 temporary shelters stocked with water and food supplies that were equipped with medical and psychological aid.
More than 15,000 families deemed to be living in high-risk zones -- prone to flooding or near the coast -- were evacuated on Tuesday, but thousands more stayed put.
Across the region, the local hotel association estimated that some 7,000 tourists would have left or been evacuated by the time the storm arrived.
The "Mariner of the Seas" cruise ship -- the second-largest in the world -- cancelled a scheduled stop at the upscale Los Cabos resort destination with some 5,000 passengers aboard.
In Los Cabos, hotels felt the pinch after a major international tax conference organized by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had to be moved to Mexico City because of the storm.
An estimated 2,000 tourists, many of them American, fled the resort strip as Jimena approached and the beaches, ports and the airport were all closed to the public on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center warned that another storm Erika had formed Tuesday in the Atlantic and would pass near the Leeward Islands in the coming days.
Date created : 2009-09-02