Hurricane Blas closes port in southern Mexico

Hurricane Blas swirled off the southern Pacific coast of Mexico on Thursday, prompting a precautionary port closure in a region that is trying to recover from the destruction wrought by the first major storm of the season.

The US National Hurricane Center said Blas was centered about 215 miles (350 kilometers) south of Manzanillo, Mexico on Thursday morning with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph).

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He said the storm would likely start to weaken Friday evening and posed no direct threat to landfall. It was heading west-northwest at 8 mph (13 km/h) and was expected to stay over the ocean.

But forecasters said Blas was bringing dangerous waves to the coast, and the port captain of Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca state said the port was closed to shipping from Wednesday afternoon.

The area southeast of Puerto Escondido was hit when Hurricane Agatha made landfall near Puerto Angel on May 30 with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph).

Authorities said flooding and mudslides caused by heavy rains from Agatha had killed at least nine people, and five others were missing and believed to be dead.

Local military commander Antonio Ramírez Escobedo told national newspaper Milenio that 17 towns or villages in the mountainous region remained cut off by the 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 Ministry of the Interior declared a state of disaster in 38 municipalities on Tuesday, making them eligible for priority aid deliveries.

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