UPDATE: Hurricane Jova Hits Mexican Port; Kills Four; Mudslides in Central America

By and Miguel Angel Gutierrez | October 13, 2011

Hurricane Jova flooded the streets of Mexico’s main Pacific port with torrential rain Wednesday, inundating popular beach resorts and killing at least four people in mudslides.

While Jova ravaged the coast, a tropical depression to the southeast prompted thousands of evacuations in Mexico as well as flooding and mudslides that have killed 18 in Central America since the start of the week.

Streets in the port of Manzanillo were underwater, coastal communities flooded and roads blocked due to fallen trees and washouts after Jova, now a tropical depression, hit the coast as a Category 2 hurricane late Tuesday.

Manzanillo, Mexico’s busiest port for cargo, remained closed to traffic despite the storm easing. Some streets in the city were under 3 feet (92 cms] of water.

“The streets of Manzanillo are impassable, as are the highways connecting Manzanillo with the south of Jalisco,” national Red Cross coordinator Isaac Oxenhaut said.

Highways leading northwest from Manzanillo along the coast were closed and the beach towns of Cihuatlan, Melaque and Barra de Navidad were swamped with floodwaters, the Red Cross said.

Two people died in Cihuatlan in Jalisco state when their house collapsed in a mudslide.

In the village of Jose Maria Morelos northwest of the port, a woman and her son died when a deluge of mud hit their home.

“I think they asphyxiated,” Alfredo Juan de Dios, 65, said of his sister-in-law Marisol and her young son Juan Pablo after the mud brought down a wall of their house, trapping them. “I have never seen rain like this. It’s caused mayhem,” he added.

Outside his shattered home, Marisol’s husband wept as rescue workers covered his son’s body with a white sheet.

The force of the winds flipped metal roofs off homes and cut power supplies to 107,000 users in the area.

In Melaque, musician Roberto Orozco said he was forced to abandon his home for higher ground. “I got back to find my stove and my fridge swimming,” said Orozco, 52. “We’re really sad. We lost everything.”

With winds that reached 35 mph [56 km/h], Jova was about 20 miles [32 kms] east-south east of Tepic at 2 p.m. PDT, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The Miami-based hurricane center said the center of Jova hit the coast near the town of Chamela in the state of Jalisco, on a stretch dotted with beaches south of tourist resort Puerto Vallarta. Mexico has no major oil installations in the Pacific.

Puerto Vallarta, which suffered flooding when Hurricane Kenna hit in 2002, was spared from the storm overnight.

On Tuesday, workers filled and stacked sandbags to protect the professional beach volleyball courts on Puerto Vallarta’s coast, where events from the Pan American Games are scheduled to be staged this week.

The hurricane center downgraded Jova to a tropical depression and Mexico lifted bad weather warnings south of Manzanillo. The storm will likely dissipate entirely by Friday, but could still cause life-threatening mudslides and floods, the hurricane center said.

Jova could produce up to 12 inches [30.5 cms] of rainfall over four western Mexican states, with isolated rainfall of up to 20 inches [50.8 cms], forecasters said.

Manzanillo has been closed since late Sunday and about 13 container ships are stuck in the port.

The port handles about 750 containers of cargo a month and ships goods including cars, car parts, cattle, minerals and tequila to Asian and North American markets.

Farther south, tropical depression Twelve E struck southwest Mexico and Central America, causing flooding and mudslides that have killed 13 people in Guatemala, four in Nicaragua and one in El Salvador since Monday.

Rising river levels in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco prompted the evacuation of 75,000 people.

(Additional reporting by Alberto Fajardo; Writing by Krista Hughes and Dave Graham; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)

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