NEWS

Thousands Of Canadians Warned About Risks In Wake Of Hurricane Patricia

10/24/2015 06:25 EDT | Updated 10/24/2016 05:12 EDT
As many as 2,000 Canadians were in the area heavily pounded by Hurricane Patricia as it made landfall in Mexico last night as the strongest-ever hurricane on record, the Foreign Affairs Department said.

With sustained winds reaching 325 kilometres an hour, the storm slammed Mexico's Pacific coast, in an area around the resort of Puerto Vallarta and the tourist-heavy port of Manzanillo, before subsiding drastically into a tropical depression by Saturday morning.

Up to 500 millimetres of rain were still expected for Saturday in Mexico's four surrounding coastal states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima and Michoacan.

"Canadians in the affected areas should seek shelter, and consider leaving if it is safe to do so," Foreign Affairs spokesperson John Babcock said in an email Friday. "If Canadians are leaving by land, they should do so without delay, as road closures may occur at short notice."

The department's website continued to warn on Saturday of fallout from the storm, including possible flash flooding and landslides. The warning recommended:

- Ask resort or hotel staff for the location of government-run shelters.

- Make alternate travel arrangements as necessary through travel agents and tour operators.

- Monitor media and weather reports.

Babcock said 500 Canadian citizens in Jalisco, the state where Patricia made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, are registered with Foreign Affairs but the department estimates "more than 2,000 in the area." 

A handful of flights to and from the affected region from Canada were cancelled Saturday, including WestJet's departures and return flights between Puerto Vallarta and Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Currently, service is expected to resume on Sunday. The airline said it was prepared to put on extra flights to get customers out of Mexico after the storm had passed.

WestJet Spokesman Robert Palmer said the airline will operate six flights to Puerto Vallarta on Sunday and 700 guests have been placed on those flights.

Despite warning of possible delays and cancellations, Air Canada did not show any service interruptions for flights to and from the area as of Saturday early afternoon. Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said a Sunday flight from Toronto to the Mexican vacation destination will go ahead as scheduled.

Away from the brunt of the storm system, Sunwing flights to Los Cabos, Mexico, from Edmonton and Calgary, and the return flights back to Canada, have been delayed by nine hours.

Ontario native Arthur Fumerton lives in Puerto Vallarta and said the weather was beautiful and sunny on Saturday, hours after the Category 5 storm made landfall Friday night.

Fumerton says he put duct tape on his windows and hunkered down to ride out what was supposed to be the worst hurricane ever recorded in the western world, but was spared when Patricia weakened rapidly after coming ashore.

Larry Kehler, a native of Steinbach, Man., who now lives in Puerto Vallarta, said the hurricane made landfall about 160 kilometres south, so there was no wind where he is living, only light rain and high cloud.

He said he closed his Café Roma at noon Friday but planned to reopen Saturday.

"Everybody's at home and the odd guy's gone for a walk and taken a picture down the street," he said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press on Friday night.

"There's nobody around. Everybody's still closed."

Incoming prime minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement saying Canada stands ready to support Mexicans in the wake of Patricia and that the thoughts of Canadians are with them.

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