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VERACRUZ, Mexico (AFP) – Mexican authorities evacuated about 5,000 people as Hurricane Ingrid gained strength and threatened to lash Mexico with heavy rains and floods when it is set to make landfall Monday.
The major storm comes just days after heavy rains lashed the southeastern state of Veracruz, killing 14 people this week alone, including 13 who died when a landslide crushed their homes in a mountainous region of the Gulf Coast state.
Veracruz emergency services chief Ricardo Maza Limon told AFP that about 5,000 people living on the banks of the Tecolutla River had been evacuated, and at least 20 bridges were damaged during rains in the north of the state that cut off 71 communities.
At 0900 GMT, the second hurricane of the 2013 season was packing top winds of 85 miles (138 kilometers) per hour as it headed northwest at seven miles per hour, the US National Hurricane Center said.
The hurricane was located about 160 miles east of Tampico, off Mexico's Gulf Coast, with the NHC warning that the storm was bringing "very heavy rains and dangerous floods."
The Mexican government issued a hurricane watch from north of La Pesca to Bahia Algodone.
A hurricane warning was also in effect from Cab Rojo to La Pesca, meaning that hurricane conditions where expected in that area within 36 hours.
"Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," the NHC said.
Ingrid was expected to strengthen further before making landfall as it makes a turn toward the northwest by early Sunday followed by a shift toward the West by early Monday.
Forecasters said Ingrid would likely dump 10 to 15 inches (25-38 centimeters) of rain over a large swathe of eastern Mexico, though some mountainous areas could experience up to 25 inches of rainfall.
"These rains are likely to result in life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the NHC bulletin said, with a dangerous storm surge capable of raising water levels as much as five feet (1.5 meters) above normal with large and destructive waves along the coast.
Mexico's state-owned oil company Pemex said late Thursday that it had pre-emptively suspended "sea and air operations" in the area, although rigs in the region continued to operate.
Mexico's National Weather Service said torrential rains were expected in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Tabasco, Veracruz and Oaxaca.
In the Pacific, the NHC said that Tropical Storm Manuel, also carrying the potential for life-threatening flash floods, should be a hurricane when it makes landfall on Sunday near the southwestern Mexican coast.
The port of Acapulco noted that a fishing vessel had disappeared, without specifying whether it was manned or who manned the ship. The port was closed to navigation and issued a warning against recreational use on beaches ahead of the hurricane's strong winds.
Guerrero's civil protection services reported damage to at least a dozen homes in two towns in the Costa Chica region due to swollen rivers, and 50 more homes were at risk of being swept away in the flooding and mudslides.
The NHC said Manuel carried the "potential for life-threatening flash flooding."
Manuel was moving north-northwestward at eight miles per hour, packing maximum winds of 70 miles per hour. It was located about 40 miles west of Lazaro Cardenas, in Michoacan state.