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Hurricane Blas prompts port closure in southern Mexico

Hurricane Blas prompts port closure in southern Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Hurricane Blas whirled off Mexico's southern Pacific coast Thursday, prompting a precautionary port closure in a region recovering from destruction brought by the season's first big storm.

A tropical depression also formed off Central America and was forecast to become a tropical storm while moving closer to El Salvador and Guatemala, before veering away from land over the weekend. Authorities in El Salvador said a half dozen people had died during a week of rains influenced by Blas and other weather systems.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Blas had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph) at midafternoon. It was centered about 210 miles (340 kilometers) south-southwest of Manzanillo and it was heading to the west-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).

Forecasters expected Blas to start weakening Friday night as it stayed over open waters and moved farther out into the Pacific. But they added that the hurricane was bringing dangerous surf to the Pacific coast.

The port captain of Puerto Escondido in the Mexican state of Oaxaca announced that the port was closed to navigation as of Wednesday afternoon.

The region to the southeast of Puerto Escondido was battered when Hurricane Agatha, came ashore near Puerto Angel on May 30 with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph). Authorities said flooding and mudslides caused by Agatha’s heavy rains killed at least nine people, with five others missing and suspected to be dead.

The local military commander, Antonio Ramírez Escobedo, told the national newspaper Milenio that 17 towns or villages in the mountainous region remained cut off by road due to collapsed bridges, landslides or downed trees.

He said more than 100,000 people in 119 communities suffered damage to their homes.

The federal Interior Department on Tuesday declared a state of disaster in 38 townships, making them eligible for priority deliveries of aid.