Dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Willa closes in on Mexico coast

This NOAA/RAMMB satellite handout image taken AT 5:30 UTC on October 22, 2018 shows hurricane Willa off Mexico's Pacific coast. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Willa closes in on Mexico coast

  • Forecasters said Willa would then blow ashore in the afternoon or evening somewhere along a 140-mile (220-kilometer) stretch extending from the resort town of Mazatlan to San Blas

MEXICO CITY: A potential catastrophic Hurricane Willa swept toward Mexico’s Pacific coast with winds of 145 mph (230 kph) Monday night, threatening a stretch of high-rise resort hotels, surfing beaches and fishing villages.
Farther south, Mexican officials reported 12 deaths related to heavy rains from Tropical Storm Vicente.
After briefly reaching Category 5 strength, Willa’s maximum sustained winds weakened some. But it remained “extremely dangerous” and was forecast to bring “life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall” to parts of west-central and southwestern Mexico ahead of an expected Tuesday landfall, the US National Hurricane Center said.
Hotel workers started taping up windows, and officials began evacuating people and shuttered schools in a low-lying landscape where towns sit amid farmland tucked between the sea and lagoons. A decree of “extraordinary emergency” was issued for 19 municipalities in Nayarit and Sinaloa states, the federal Interior Department announced.
Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, mostly in Sinaloa state.
The hurricane was expected to pass over or near the Islas Marias — a set of islands about 60 miles (96 kilometers) offshore that include a nature preserve and a federal prison — early Tuesday.
Forecasters said Willa would then blow ashore in the afternoon or evening somewhere along a 140-mile (220-kilometer) stretch extending from the resort town of Mazatlan to San Blas.
It was projected to weaken somewhat before hitting land but was still expected to be extremely dangerous.
Yamile Bustamante, assistant general manager at the Crown Plaza de Mazatlan, said hotel executives were not ruling out the possibility of evacuating guests but were awaiting instructions from authorities.
The governments of Sinaloa and Nayarit ordered coastal region schools to close and began preparing emergency shelters.
Enrique Moreno, mayor of Escuinapa, a municipality of about 60,000 people on Willa’s track, said officials were trying to evacuate everybody in the seaside village of Teacapan. He estimated 3,000 were affected but he expected some would try to stay.
“The people don’t want to evacuate, but it’s for their security,” he said.
About 60 miles (100 kilometers) up the coast in Mazatlan, with a metropolitan-area population of about 500,000, Mayor Jose Joel Boucieguez said officials prepared shelters and were closely monitoring low-lying areas. Mazatlan is a popular vacation spot and home to a large number of American and Canadian expatriates.
Late Monday, Willa was centered about 85 miles (140 kilometers) southwest of the Islas Marias and 195 miles (310 kilometers) south-southwest of Mazatlan. It was moving north at 9 mph (15 kph).
Hurricane-force winds extended 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the storm’s center, and tropical storm-force winds were up to 125 miles (205 kilometers) out.
The US hurricane center warned that Willa could bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain — with up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) in some places — to parts of Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa states, with flash flooding and landslides possible in mountainous areas.
Farther south, Tropical Storm Vicente weakened and was expected to dissipate soon, but it still dropped heavy rainfall that caused dangerous flooding in southern and southwestern Mexico.
Officials in Oaxaca state said seven adults and five children had lost their lives in drownings or mudslides.


Spanish emergency services working to rescue toddler trapped in well

Updated 16 January 2019
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Spanish emergency services working to rescue toddler trapped in well

  • Among debris pulled out of the well, rescuers found hair, which DNA tests confirmed belonged to the child
  • Emergency services are using cameras to try to locate the child but said access was difficult, with soil partially blocking the well

TOTALAN, Spain: Spanish emergency services were working to rescue a toddler trapped in a well since Sunday.
The two-year-old boy was seen falling into the well as his family walked through a private estate in Totalan, Malaga, in southern Spain, his father Jose told Spanish media.
Among debris pulled out of the well, rescuers found hair, which DNA tests confirmed belonged to the child. No signs of life have been detected.
The town’s residents turned out on Wednesday for a vigil to support the family, many holding homemade placards reading “All of Spain is with you” and “We are sending you our strength.” One man held a sign simply reading “Julen,” the name of the toddler.
Emergency services are using cameras to try to locate the child but said access was difficult, with soil partially blocking the well, which is just 25 cm (10 inches) wide and 100 meters (328 feet) deep.
“We are not only giving voice for all the residents of Totalan but also for the rest of the country because we have all had Julen in our minds since last Sunday,” resident Patricia Calderon told reporters.
Spanish police said members of a Swedish firm which helped locate 33 Chilean miners rescued after 69 days underground more than seven years ago had arrived on Tuesday to help in the rescue operation.
Alternative routes were being studied and officials said they were working to dig a tunnel next to the well.