by Staff Writers
Xalapa, Mexico (AFP) Aug 10, 2012
Ernesto killed at least nine people in Mexico, officials said Friday, with the dissipating storm threatening more heavy rain and possible flooding.
In the southeastern state of Tabasco, a 17-year-old fisherman drowned off the coast of the town of Centla, according to authorities, and the body of a second victim was found in the Samaria River.
A landslide in the neighboring state of Veracruz left five dead and one missing on Thursday.
"Three people died when a tree fell" amid strong winds and rain in the municipality of Rio Blanco, Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte told reporters.
Another woman was killed in her car when a river swept across a highway, and lightning fatally struck a 62-year-old man, according to a government report.
In the southwestern state of Oaxaca, authorities said a woman was killed when heavy rains and landslides caused her car to crash. A child less than 12 years old died in his home after the runoff from a hill caused the building to collapse.
Ernesto, which has petered out, made landfall for a second time near the Mexican port of Coatzacoalcos on Thursday, dumping heavy rain and causing flooding in the Gulf coast region.
The high mountains of southern Mexico have disrupted the storm, whose remnants are expected to move off Mexico into the eastern Pacific over the weekend, when it could become a tropical cyclone, according to the US-based National Hurricane Center.
It first became a hurricane on Tuesday, before being downgraded to a tropical storm and heading back out to sea.
As the storm moves inland, some areas could still see up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain before skies clear, the NHC said, adding that the storm would likely disintegrate late Friday.
Mexican civil defense officials said 10 communities had been cut off by flooding, although no major damage was reported.
The states of Veracruz, Tabasco, Puebla, Oaxaca and Guerrero were expected to see downpours through late Friday.
"These rainfall amounts may produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the NHC warned, but all coastal watches and warnings have been lifted.
Ernesto -- which was the second hurricane of the Atlantic season -- had already been buffeting Caribbean countries last week and also dumped heavy rain on areas of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.
In the Pacific, Gilma, which had swelled into a category one hurricane on Wednesday, was downgraded to a tropical storm and expected to weaken further.
According to the latest NHC bulletin, it was 665 miles (1,070 kilometers) west-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California and was not expected to make landfall.
On Thursday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration raised the severity of its predictions for the current hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 to November 30.
The latest outlook calls for 12 to 17 named storms, including five to eight hurricanes, of which two to three could be major. In May, it had forecast nine to 15 named storms.
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