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Hurricane Odile batters Baja

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

Hurricane Odile batters Baja

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 CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (AP) – Hurricane Odile raked the Baja California Peninsula with strong winds and heavy rains early today as locals and tourists in the resort area of Los Cabos began to emerge from shelters and assess the damage.

The extent of Odile’s impact was still not clear before daybreak, but the storm severely damaged hotel lobbies and facades, shattered windows and left streets full of debris. The windows at the area’s Westin Hotel had been blown out.

The newspaper Tribuna de los Cabos reported people being injured by flying glass, power lines and traffic signals down throughout the city, and a fire at the Cascadas resort on Medano Beach. No details about the blaze were immediately available.

Early today, the storm’s maximum sustained winds were near 115 miles per hour (185 kilometres per hour) as it moved over the peninsula as a Category 2 hurricane. It was centred about 140 miles (230 kilometres) east-southeast of Cabo San Lazaro.

People hunkered down in shelters and hotel conference rooms overnight as the powerful and sprawling storm made landfall last night as a powerful Category 3 storm near Cabo San Lucas with an estimated intensity of 125 mph (205 kph).

The area is home to gleaming megaresorts, tiny fishing communities and low-lying neighbourhoods of flimsy homes. Forecasters predicted a dangerous storm surge with large waves as well as drenching rains capable of causing landslides and flash floods.

As howling winds whipped palm trees amid pelting rain outside, people bedded down and used magazines to fan themselves in stuffy safe rooms. In one hotel near San Jose del Cabo, residents moved from a makeshift shelter into crowded basement storage areas after the boarded up windows blew out.

Denise Mellor, a traveller from Orange County, California, was frustrated about a lack of information about the storm and said she was learning more from her daughter back home than from hotel workers.

“It’s a little bit (unsettling) that we don’t have a choice but to sit in here and hope for the best,” Mellor said. “So that makes me a little bit scared.”

Mexican authorities evacuated coastal areas and readied shelters for up to 30 000 people.