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At Least 118 as Hurricane Pauline Devastates...

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ACAPULCO, MEXICO (AP) — Hurricane Paulinestruck Mexico's mostfamous tourist resort with devastating fury Thursday, unleashingdeadly torrents that swept people, cars and boulders toward ravagedPacific beaches before being downgraded to a tropical storm.

At least 118 people were killed in the states of Oaxaca andGuerrero. Twice that number were reported injured. Dozens weremissing. Floods and mud slides were rampant, and damage wasextensive.

All ports were closed from Tapachula, near the Guatemalanborder, to Acapulco. Air traffic was suspended. Power was outthrough most of the coast, and telephone service was spotty.

The U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., said at 8 p.m. EDTthat Pauline was centered about 30 miles north of Playa Azul inGuerrero state, and moving northwest at 13 mph. Winds had droppedto 70 mph - below hurricane level of 74 mph.

But heavy flood warnings remained in effect.

Guerrero state secretary Humberto Salgado said 94 people diedThursday in Acapulco - most of them drowned by flash floods.

Authorities appealed for help for Acapulco, which the federalgovernment declared a disaster area. The beach resort had run outof gasoline, drinking water, food, clothing, medicines and manymore essentials.

``This is a very sad day,'' said Gov. Angel Aguirre of Guerrerostate, home to Acapulco, where Pauline sent torrents of rainwaterraging through streets. Aguirre said at least five other peoplewere killed elsewhere in the state, adding, ``We don't recall ahurricane ever having caused such damage.''

In neighboring Oaxaca state, where Pauline first struck with115-mph winds a day earlier, state government spokesman LeandroHernandez confirmed 19 deaths, 15 people missing and thousands ofhomeless.

``The figure could still rise,'' said Hernandez, speaking withThe Associated Press by telephone from the state, where powerfulPauline ripped makeshift homes away and badly damaged such resortsas Puerto Angel.

Fueled by the warm El Nino ocean currents, Pauline poweredtowering waves - 30 feet tall on exposed coasts - that poundedAcapulco's pristine beaches to a maelstrom of trash and twistedlounge chairs.

Heavy rains turned streets into roaring rivers of debris. Waterswept boulders the size of cars down the hills and flipped vehicleslike toys, catching some with lights still on, their doorsunderwater. A coastal highway skirting the famed beaches teemedwith raging water, and one man's body stuck from the mud, armsoutstretched and mouth agape.

``If Pauline survives, it could become a potential threat totheGulf of California and adjacent areas within the next day or two,''hurricane center forecaster Max Mayfield said.

President Ernesto Zedillo, on a state visit to Germany, orderedarmy troops into stricken areas along a long stretch of coast.Troops in Humvees poured into Acapulco by the hundreds to secureareas around homes wrecked by raging floods.

TV footage showed bodies mired in the mud. Jaime Herandez, 40,who lives in the hills near Acapulco, said police took away atleast seven bodies after mud and water came rushing down beforedawn.

``We've got rain coming down, mudslides blocking roads. Houseshave fallen, walls are down,'' Red Cross spokesman Marco AntonioSantiago said.

There were no reports of casualties among American or othertourists. Many foreigners huddled in hotels while hundreds ofMexicans up and down the coast remained in emergency shelters.

``You feel bad for the people - there's so much poverty andit'sthe off-season and now this,'' said Joyce Walton, a 33-year-oldtourist from Chicago.

Acapulco's deadliest drama unfolded in working neighborhoods onthe hills above the five-star ocean-front hotels as a 40-foot-widetorrent tumbled toward the sea.

``We felt our apartment building tremble because of the rocksthe river was throwing against the foundations,'' said ElilasioGarcia, 22, who escaped one 10-story concrete building when anearly dry gulch sprang to life.

Hundreds of modest homes of cement and wood tottered andcollapsed into floodwaters and knee-deep torrents raced down manystreets closer to Acapulco's beach, rushing to the sea.

Hurricane Pauline barreled ashore near Huatulco in Oaxaca stateon Wednesday, blowing down plywood homes.

In a public housing project in Huatulco, children drew waterfrom a dirty canal using buckets after the canal overflowed itsbanks and sent 3 feet of mud into homes there.

``The water took away everything,'' said Rosaura AguilarRamirez, 38. ``It took our clothes. It took our dishes.Everything.''

She threw a muddy rag into the yard. ``My daughter's dress,''she said.

In Puerto Angel, where Pauline first rumbled ashore onWednesday, many houses that weren't made of concrete were washedaway, said Federico Velazquez, a federal highway police official inradio contact with that city. Waves tore away the beach of theHuatulco Sheraton.

Sheila Butler, 78, of McAllen, Texas, said she had never seen ahurricane so ruinous. ``We come from South Texas, so we've seenhurricanes, but this was a real strong one,'' she said.

Forecasters said El Nino, a phenomenon in which unusually warmwaters disrupt weather patterns, apparently was to blame for thehigh number of powerful Pacific hurricanes this year.

By MARK STEVENSON,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1997 AssociatedPress. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,rewritten, or distributed.

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