Storm Ernesto kills five in Mexico

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 11 2012 08:13 AM | Updated as of Aug 11 2012 04:13 PM

XALAPA, Mexico - Ernesto killed five people in Mexico, officials said Friday, with the weakening storm threatening more heavy rain and possible flooding.

A 17-year-old fisherman drowned off the coast of the southeastern town of Centla, according to authorities, and the body of a second victim was found in a river near Cunduacan, also in the southeast.

In the southwestern Mexican state of Veracruz, another three people died when a tree fell on their van, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

Ernesto, which has been downgraded to a tropical depression, 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 storm is now dissipating over Southern Mexico, 214 miles (345 kilometers) west-southwest of Veracruz, 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 Friday night.

"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 675 miles (1,085 kilometers) southwest of the southern tip of Baja California and was not expected to make landfall.

On Thursday, the 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.

© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse