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The first hurricane of the Pacific season is heading to the south coast of Mexico


MEXICO CITY (AP) – Hurricane Agatha, the first in the eastern Pacific, headed on Monday to tourist beaches and fishing villages on the south coast of Mexico amid warnings of dangerous storm surges and floods due to heavy rains.

After its formation on Sunday, “Agatha” quickly gained strength, and, according to forecasts, on Monday afternoon or evening, it will go ashore as a strong hurricane of the 2nd category, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

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It was moving in the direction of Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angela in the southern state of Oaxaca – a region that includes the tranquil tourist resorts of Huatulco, Mazunte and Zipolite.

The Hurricane Center said Agatha could “bring an extremely dangerous storm surge and life-threatening winds.”

At the beginning of Monday, Agatha had a maximum steady wind of 110 miles per hour (175 kilometers per hour) – just 1 mile per hour below the threshold for category 3, according to the Hurricane Center. The center of the storm was approximately 65 miles (110 kilometers) southwest of Puerto Angel and headed northeast at a speed of 6 miles per hour (9 kilometers per hour).

According to the Hurricane Center, a small change in strength was expected before the storm came ashore. A hurricane warning was issued between the port of Salina Cruz and Lagunas de Chacaua.

The Oaxaca Department of Civil Protection on Sunday released photos of fishermen pulling their boats on the beach to protect them from the storm as the first groups moved overland.

Uatulka municipal authorities have ordered to “completely close” all the beaches of the resort and its seven famous bays, many of which can only be reached by boat. They also closed local schools and began setting up emergency storm shelters.

To the west in Zipolita, long known for its beaches and bohemian clothing, staff at the small Casa Kalmar have assembled outdoor furniture and installed wooden storm shutters to keep out the glass and windows.

“The biggest concern here is the wind,” said hotel manager Sylvia Ranfani.

With only one guest – and many cancellations due to the hurricane – Ranfagni planned to take Agatha to a hotel three or four blocks from the beach.

“I’m going to be locked up here with my animals,” she said, referring to her dogs and cats.

The Mexican Government Turtle Center – a former slaughterhouse that has become a conservation center in Mazunta – has announced it is closed to visitors until further notice due to the hurricane.

The US National Hurricane Center said the storm is expected to drop 10 to 16 inches (250 to 400 millimeters) of rain in some parts of Oaxaca, with individual highs of 20 inches (500 millimeters), threatening flooding and mudslides.

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