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Hurricane Jova lashes Mexican coast, kills 2

By Adriana Gomez Licon

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 12 2011 12:56 p.m. MDT

A man wades through a street flooded by the heavy rains dumped by Hurricane Jova in Villa de las Garzas, Mexico, Wednesday Oct. 12, 2011. Jova slammed into Mexico's Pacific coast as a Category 2 hurricane early Wednesday, swamping beach towns and causing floods in the mountains above before dropping to tropical storm force as it swept past Puerto Vallarta.

Marco Ugarte, Associated Press

MANZANILLO, Mexico — Hurricane Jova slammed into Mexico's Pacific coast as a Category 2 hurricane early Wednesday, causing floods, collapsing homes and triggering mudslides that killed two people and injured six before dropping to tropical storm force.

Jova hit land west of the port of Manzanillo and the beach town of Barra de Navidad before dawn with 100-mph (160 kph) winds and heavy rains. It triggered a mudslide in the town of Cihuatlan, just inland from Barra de Navidad, that swept away a house on a hillside, killing two of its occupants, said Oscar Mejia, the spokesman for the Jalisco state Red Cross rescue division.

Flooding was so bad in Cihuatlan the Red Cross office had to be evacuated because it was flooded with about four feet (1 1/2 meters) of water.

Farther northwest along the coast, in the town of Tomatlan, two children suffered head injuries when the walls of their brick home collapsed under the force of the wind and rains, Mejia said.

Jova forced the closure of navigation in Manzanillo, Mexico's second-biggest non-oil cargo port, flooded some neighborhoods there and brought down power lines and billboards.

Israel Arriaga, 38, rode out the hurricane with his wife and two children in the Valle de las Garzas neighborhood, where at least one home collapsed and water rose waist-high.

Around 2 a.m., Arriaga said "I heard a very loud noise. It was the water coming in." There were strange flashes of lightening and "the waves sounded like a dam about to burst."

The home of retired soldier Ernesto Huerta, 55, in Valle de las Garzas was flooded knee-high with water. Huerta had put his furniture up on bricks in advance, but didn't evacuate.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Jova weakened steadily as it moved inland and winds and was down to tropical storm force by late morning, with winds of 50 mph (80 kph) by 1 p.m (2 p.m. EDT; 1800GMT).

Jova passed within about 12 miles (20 kms) of Puerto Vallarta, where officials piled sandbags and tarps across the beach volleyball court that will be used in the Pan American Games that start Friday. By midday, the storm was about 30 miles (50 kms) northeast of Puerto Vallarta.

Jova was moving to the north at about 7 mph (11 kph).

Authorities had also set up shelters for residents of inland towns, where the mountainous terrain could cause flash floods and mudslides, which often pose the greatest dangers in hurricanes.

A new tropical depression formed to the southeast, with maximum sustained winds near 35 mph (55 kph), and the Hurricane Center said it could become a tropical storm later in the day.

The system caused heavy rainfall in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of the southern Mexico state of Chiapas. Chiapas and neighboring Guatemala are particularly vulnerable to flash flooding and mudslides, because of their mountainous terrain and numerous small Indian villages perched on hillsides.

The depression was centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the Chiapas coast and was moving north near 5 mph (8 kph). The hurricane center said the depression's center was expected to approach the coast Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Irwin lost some strength farther out in the Pacific with winds near 40 mph (65 kph). While it was expected to move eastward toward land, forecasts indicated it probably wouldn't make landfall.

Associated Press Writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report

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