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Hurricane Kenna Strikes Swift, Hard

Storm demolishes homes on Mexico's Pacific Coast. Region declared disaster area.

October 27, 2002|From Times Wire Services

SAN BLAS, Mexico — Shocked residents of this Pacific Coast shrimp fishing village began picking up the pieces of their houses Saturday after Hurricane Kenna rammed through with 145-mph winds, shattering brick walls and ripping off roofs.

San Blas, a port town of 9,000, took the worst hit in the brief but intense Friday storm, with three-fourths of its homes lost or damaged. Kenna also mowed down wide swaths of trees as it swept inland. Power, telephones and water were still out Saturday as people picked through the rubble.

"We lost it all in one minute," said Irma Gomez, 38, whose house was flattened while she and her family took refuge in City Hall.

Too shocked to cry, Gomez, a hotel worker, said she, her fisherman husband and their children were left with only the clothes they were wearing.

Carmen Lopez, 24, sobbed when she returned Friday night from a shelter in a town farther inland to find the concrete roof of her family's house in huge slabs on the ground and their home ankle-deep in water. But her two daughters were thrilled to find their puppy and cages full of canaries unharmed inside.

San Blas officials estimated that 80% of homes were damaged or destroyed. Officials of surrounding Nayarit state said a woman died when a wall fell on her. Fishing boats were toppled at their docks and roads were damaged.

Federal authorities said communications with as many as 30 largely Indian fishing villages in Nayarit were lost, and the government declared the region a disaster area, eligible for emergency aid. Ten people were injured by flying glass, an official said.

In Puerto Vallarta, a popular beach resort about 80 miles south, at least 42 people were hurt as the hurricane hurled objects through the air, said regional military commander Carlos Garcia.

Luxury hotels were flooded by surges or high waves, and tourists were stranded at Puerto Vallarta's airport, which closed temporarily and had windows blown out. Officials had closed nearly a mile of the beachfront to all but property owners. Even the stone arches that symbolize the city had been blasted away.

"We had a room facing east, so we really didn't think that much of it until we saw 2 feet of water running through the lobby," said Wayne Johnson, a Minnesota tourist. "We really just enjoyed lying by the pool in the sun. But now the pool is filled with sand."

Seawater rushed in from the bay, floating cars, stranding boats and invading businesses. Tourists fled to higher ground.

Blanca Becera, a spokeswoman for the city emergency department, said at least 15 hotels, 22 restaurants, 48 clothing shops, 12 houses and seven shopping-office complexes had been damaged.

Kenna quickly weakened as it moved inland and Saturday was a depression over northern Mexico.

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