Tourists flee ahead of dangerous Hurricane John

Powerful Hurricane John roared toward one of Mexico’s most exclusive beach resorts on Friday, forcing hundreds of foreign tourists to flee ahead of howling winds, angry seas and lashing rain.

Five-star hotels set up refugee shelters for mostly United States guests who abandoned plans to play golf, swim or go boating at the Los Cabos resort in Baja California.

John picked up power overnight to become a dangerous category-three storm and was expected to brush the corner of the peninsula to the west of Los Cabos later in the day.

Rescue workers evacuated hundreds of residents from low-lying areas to temporary shelters and said they may send more away from the danger area. Many vacationers took no chances and flew home, creating long lines at Los Cabos airport. Others hunkered down in their hotels.

American sports fisherman Randy Hinton (42), facing his fourth hurricane in Los Cabos where he comes every three weeks, said he had moored his brand-new, million-dollar yacht in the town marina, hoping it would be safe.
“If Mother Nature wants to take it, then let her take it. I’m not going to die for it,” he said.

Stores had boarded up windows and municipal authorities banned the sale of alcohol. “We’re prepared,” said 17-year-old hotel cleaner Benjamin de la Cruz as he walked to work.

Residents lined up to buy food, water and gasoline as drizzle fell on the resort, made up of the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. “There’s a bit of panic,” said a senior Red Cross official.

At noon GMT, the US National Hurricane Centre said John was 160km south-east of Los Cabos and moving north-west at 16kph with sustained winds of 185kph. Rainfall of 15cm to 25cm, with isolated deluges of 45cm, was possible over southern Baja California and along Mexico’s west coast, it said.

“We just went and stocked up on water and bought a couple of flashlights,” said Matt Haskin, on vacation with his wife and three-year-old son. The family was enjoying a swim in calm sea on Thursday after failing to get a flight out. “This place is built like Fort Knox,” he added, pointing to their luxury hotel.

After hitting the resort, John was expected to bounce back into the Pacific, posing no threat to the US.

Last October, Hurricane Wilma hit Cancun and other beach resorts on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. It caused heavy damage, eroding large stretches of beach and stranding tens of thousands of tourists for days.

On the US East Coast, Tropical Storm Ernesto spun north through North Carolina on Friday morning with wind speeds up to 96kph. Ernesto did little damage but was expected to bring heavy rain to Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania by the weekend.—Reuters

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