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The strongest hurricane in the history of the Americas will barrel into Mexico’s western coast later today, forcing guests to flee hotels in the Puerto Vallarta resort area.
About 400,000 people are considered “vulnerable” to Hurricane Patricia, civil protection official Jose Maria Tapia told reporters in Mexico City. The Category 5 storm is packing winds as fast as 200 miles per hour.
Patricia is expected to make landfall Friday between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, Mexico’s busiest container port. The “extremely dangerous” hurricane will trigger life-threatening mudslides and flash floods, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.
“We can’t underestimate the magnitude of this phenomenon,” Roberto Ramirez, chief of Mexico’s National Water Commission, said in a message streamed on the Internet Friday, urging residents to take precautions or evacuate. “A Category 5 hurricane could lift cars, destroy houses that aren’t built with steel, rebar and cement, and sweep people away.”
The hurricane forced the closure of ports in Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas, according to the Communications and Transportation Ministry. Manzanillo has a liquefied natural gas terminal and a rail line operated by Ferromex, owned by Grupo Mexico SAB and Union Pacific Corp.
The luxury St. Regis Hotel in nearby Punta Mita evacuated all 160 guests early Friday and isn’t taking reservations that can run as steep as $2,730 a night until further notice, according to public relations director Paulina Feltrin.
A Marriott International Inc. resort in Puerto Vallarta was evacuated and closed, the company said in a statement. Some guests left the area entirely while others were relocated to hotels in Guadalajara, 125 miles away.
Taxis in the area were busy transferring guests to Guadalajara, where many tourists are flying home after Vallarta shuttered its international airport.
“Everything is closed. There’s no one here,” said Federico Armenta, who manned a taxi stand outside Punta de Mita’s main beach-front drag minutes before leaving the town himself. “All of our cabs are heading to Guadalajara.”
Most guests at Manzanillo’s Las Hadas resort had left by early Friday, according to Lety Mancilla, a hotel employee.
“Almost all the guests are gone,” she said by telephone. “The hotel is well built and we have a secure area for the ones that are left.”
Bank branches and other financial institutions will close at 12 p.m. in Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and other coastal towns, the Finance Ministry said in a statement. Gas stations in the affected areas were also set to close, according to state- owned oil producer Petroleos Mexicanos.
Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico SAB, which operates airports in Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Guadalajara, fell as much as 7.5 percent to 141.90 pesos for the biggest intraday decline in almost four years. The peso weakened 0.5 percent, the most among Latin American currencies.
This article was written by Nacha Cattan and Brendan Case from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.