Lorenzo Batters Mexico's Gulf Coastline, Kills 3

Friday, September 28th 2007, 6:10 pm

By: News On 6

SAN RAFAEL, Mexico (AP) _ Hurricane Lorenzo hit Mexico's central Gulf coast on Friday, flinging roofs and billboards through the air and causing a landslide that claimed three lives.

The storm brought steady rain to much of central Mexico. In Puebla state, a saturated hillside collapsed, killing a woman and two children.

Following roughly the same path as August's deadly Hurricane Dean, Lorenzo quickly weakened to a tropical depression as it charged inland, drenching Veracruz state's lush mountains and filling rivers with roaring water. The storm had dissipated by late Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm battered a coastline populated with small fishing villages and beach hotels, knocking over electrical poles and leaving about 5,000 people in shelters scattered throughout the region.

In the farming town of San Rafael, residents scooped water out of flooded homes and tried to keep their belongings dry as a nearby river threatened to overflow its banks. Many had lost their banana, orange and lime crops to Hurricane Dean, and were still cleaning up from that storm when Lorenzo hit.

Maya Luisa Hernandez, 78, spent the night in a makeshift shelter at city hall. Her corrugated tin shack was destroyed by Dean, and she was trying to return home Friday to see if she had again lost her rebuilt home and few belongings.

``I'm worried because I don't know anything about my things,'' she said. ``I put them up high, but the river is going to overflow its banks.''

Lorenzo rapidly strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday, then made landfall southeast of Tuxpan, the Miami-based center said.

It hit near the seaside town of Nautla, where high winds peeled the roofs off many homes.

Luis Urtado, a 79-year-old cobbler, said he was at a neighbor's house when the roof went flying into the night, forcing him and his neighbors to flee to another building. As they ran through the rain, he noticed his home had also lost its roof and was filling with water.

``As I was heading for shelter, I saw how the winds had dismantled my home,'' he said.

On Friday, water reached his window sills, and he spent the day bagging what remained of his belongings.

Forecasters said Lorenzo could dump 5 to 10 inches of rain in Veracruz, with isolated downpours reaching 15 inches. The area is vulnerable to heavy rain. In 1999, flooding killed at least 350 people.

``What worries us is overflowing rivers and steep hillsides,'' said Ranulfo Marquez, Veracruz state deputy secretary for civil protection.

Meanwhile, a new tropical depression formed in the open Atlantic Ocean, and Tropical Storm Karen weakened further. Karen was expected to become a depression Saturday. Neither storm was expected to threaten land.

Tropical Storm Karen's center was about 660 miles east of the Leeward Islands, and its maximum sustained winds had decreased to 40 mph.

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