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Mexico's hard-hit coast preparing for another hurricane


Tourists and residents in Mexico's southwestern Guerrero state were preparing for Hurricane Raymond's arrival Tuesday, with memories still fresh of the devastation from Manuel.

The powerful storm was still churning off the Central American country's west coast, but could in the coming hours cause "urban flooding, landslides in mountainous areas, including on roads, and overflowing rivers," Mexico's National Weather Service said.

Rain had already been drenching the resort of Acapulco since late Sunday, causing water to rise up to the knees in some neighborhoods, just a month after floods trapped tourists there for almost a week.

As the major hurricane crept off the coast, several residents of the small town of Los Cimientos, west of Acapulco, took refuge on the second floor of an elementary school.

"We are afraid that it will take us by surprise, so it was better to come here," said local resident Bernarda Garcia whose town was devastated by Manuel.

Guerrero state, which was pummeled by Tropical Storm Manuel in September, closed schools for 35,000 children, shut down seaports and evacuated vulnerable residents, officials said Monday.

After gaining strength Monday, the Category Three hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale weakened slightly on Tuesday. It packed maximum sustained winds of 115 miles (185 kilometers) per hour, the US National Hurricane Center said in its latest bulletin.

After "meandering" the day before, the storm was "nearly stationary" some 85 miles (140 kilometers) southwest of Zihuatanejo and 140 miles (230 kilometers) from Acapulco, it said.

The US forecasters said Raymond could move closer to the coast Tuesday but would slowly move west on Wednesday. Some additional weakening is expected over the next 48 hours.

Soldiers evacuated some 500 people from Los Cimientos and Tierra Digna, which are part of the Coyuca de Benitez municipality, due to the risk of floods, Mayor Ramiro Avila told AFP.

Another 400 were evacuated from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo further west, while some 100 families were moved from at-risk areas in the municipality of Tecpan de Galeana, officials said.

In Zihuatanejo, tourists set to arrive this week were cancelling trips, and those already in the city, were being asked not to leave their hotels.

But only 40 residents agreed to go into one of the three shelters prepared for some 1,500 people.

"Unfortunately, people are refusing to go to shelters until something happens," mayor Erick Fernandez said.

Fishermen docked their boats after many fellow seamen lost their vessels during Manuel's passage.

"Everybody has bought food supplies to last a week. God willing this won't get ugly," said tuna fisherman Leonardo Gutierrez.

Threatened by heavy rains, the neighboring state of Michoacan opened 34 shelters and closed schools in four municipalities, said state government secretary Jaime Mares Camarena.

The region is still recovering from Tropical Storm Manuel, which struck Guerrero in mid-September while another system, Ingrid, slammed the opposite coast almost simultaneously.

The twin storms claimed 157 lives and damaged the homes of 1.7 million people.

Hardest hit was Guerrero, where 101 of the deaths were recorded and a massive landslide buried a mountain village.

In Manuel's aftermath, some 5,000 people are still living in shelters in Guerrero and 5,000 other families may have to be relocated.

The National Water Commission said Raymond could also dump torrential rains in Michoacan and soak several other states, as well as Mexico City.

The commission has warned that soil across the region was already saturated with water, increasing the chances of flooding and landslides.