Mexico works to clear debris as Agatha weakens on southern coast

Mexican officials worked into Tuesday to clear highways blocked by mudslides along Mexico’s southern coast after record-breaking storm Agatha battered the region with torrential rains and strong winds.

Agatha made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane on Monday afternoon, touching down with 105 miles per hour winds (169 km per hour) near the beach town of Puerto Angel on the Pacific coast, losing strength as it moved inland.

By early Tuesday, Agatha had weakened to a tropical depression and is expected to dissipate by afternoon, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC), which warned of life-threatening flash floods and mudslides in Oaxaca state.

There were no reported fatalities, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told a news conference, adding winds went down to 43.50 miles per hour (70 km per hour) in the area.

Lopez Obrador warned about heavy rains, and said he will meet with authorities and security advisors to monitor the situation.

Waves of between one and three meters are expected to hit the coasts of Oaxaca and Chiapas during the day, Mexico’s National Water Commission CONAGUA said on Twitter.

Rain caused mud and rocks to slide into two highways in Oaxaca, blocking access to at least one area of the state, local authorities said. Mexico’s transportation ministry was working to clear the roads into the night on Monday.

Some towns in Oaxaca lost power, and one transformer exploded, officials said. Telephone lines were knocked out on Monday, forcing authorities to communicate by radio.

Agatha, the strongest hurricane on record to reach land on Mexico’s Pacific coast during the month of May, is expected to drop a total of 10 to 16 inches (25-41 cm) of rain on Oaxaca, with heavy downpours in nearby states of Chiapas, Veracruz, Tabasco and eastern Guerrero, the NHC said.

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