Hurricane Odile leaves seven dead after battering western Mexico
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Hurricane Odile leaves seven dead after battering western Mexico

Seven people were killed, at least one more is missing, more than 100 were injured and thousands of tourists were left stranded as Hurricane Odile wreaked havoc across northwestern Mexico last week.

The strongest hurricane on record to hit the popular tourist area of Los Cabos, Odile was rated a category-three hurricane with 125-mph winds when it made landfall on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula late on September 14.

The Baja California Sur state government reported that Korean mining executive Kyoun Yin Park was killed when his vehicle was swept away by floodwater the next day, while the body of his companion Chai Sung Ken was eventually recovered on Friday.

German tourist Hunter Treow also died of a heart attack aboard his boat near the La Paz harbor, while British woman Simone Wood was later found dead in the same bay. Her husband Paul Whitehouse is still missing.

Juan Francisco Ponce Quezada, a 28-year-old plumber, was also found dead on Thursday. He was apparently washed away while trying to cross Santa Rosa river in San José del Cabo.

Two people were killed in the Pacific resort of Puerto Vallarta, in western Jalisco state. Saúl Pillar Jiménez, a 21-year-old tourist from Guadalajara, and an unidentified local merchant both drowned after being hit by strong waves caused by the passing hurricane.

Another 135 people were treated for minor injuries in southern Baja California, where more than 239,000 people were left without electricity, water or working phone lines for days.

Looting breaks out as thousands left stranded

Some 30,000 tourists were stranded after the Los Cabos international airport was closed to commercial traffic because of storm damage, but government officials declared the runway usable for evacuations and made emergency repairs to get the control tower operational again.

Mexican airliners Aeroméxico, Interjet, Viva Aerobús, Volaris and Magnicharters all collaborated with the armed forces to evacuate more than 23,000 tourists from Los Cabos and nearby La Paz to the cities of Guadalajara, Los Mochis, Mexico City, Mazatlan, Tijuana and Toluca. The passengers were then able to catch connecting flights or receive consular assistance to help them get home.

Those left stranded helped themselves to food, drinks and hygiene essentials from local supermarkets and convenience stores in the aftermath of the storm. But the situation soon grew more desperate and the government sent federal forces to restore order following reports of armed and masked men looting shops, hotels and houses in the upmarket tourist resorts of San Lucas and San José del Cabo.

Seven hundred locals lose their homes

Los Cabos and La Paz bore the brunt of the storm, but the towns of Loreto, Comondu and Mulege also sustained damage and more remote communities were left isolated after the storm washed away roads and destroyed bridges. Some 700 people from 200 families were reportedly left homeless when their flimsy houses were blown away by the storm.

The total cost of the damage has not yet been determined but insurance companies are expected to pay out as much as 12 billion pesos ($900 million), more than the combined total after Hurricane Ingrid and Tropical Storm Manuel hit Mexico almost exactly one year earlier.

After storming up the Gulf of California early last week, Odile crossed into the southwestern United States last Thursday. Any sense of relief in the affected areas was almost immediately crushed by the news that Tropical Storm Polo was advancing in Odile’s wake; luckily for locals and visitors alike, the storm eventually veered away from the coast and out into the Pacific Ocean.