Tropical storm Paul downgraded

ELIZABETH ROBERTS
Last updated 14:40 17/10/2012

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Tropical Storm Paul was weakening rapidly as it skirted a sparsely populated area of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, while Hurricane Rafael was expected to pass by Bermuda in the Atlantic, the US National Hurricane Center says.

Paul, formerly a Category 1 hurricane, churned about 50km north-northwest of Cabo San Lazaro and was expected to continue moving near or over the coast on Tuesday or Wednesday (local time), the centre said in a public advisory.

The storm was moving north at 22kmh with maximum wind speeds of 112kmh, the centre said.

"It is raining very hard, there is a lot of wind. It is not the time to go out," said Margarito Medina, a civil protection official in Comondu, the county where local officials expected the tropical storm to make landfall.

Medina said shelters for 4000 people had been set up in the area, frequented by fishermen and tourists.

The Mexican navy said on Tuesday it had received no requests for help during visits by navy personnel to Cabo San Lucas.

The US centre said Paul could cause dangerous coastal waves and possible flash floods.

The Mexican government has a tropical storm warning from Santa Fe northward to El Pocito on the country's western Baja Peninsula and another warning to the eastern coast of Baja from San Evaristo to Bahia San Juan Bautista, the centre said.

The storm is not expected to hit the tourist resort of Los Cabos on the southern tip of the peninsula.

Mexico has no important oil installations along its Pacific coast.

Mexico's Communications and Transportation Ministry said that among the country's major 18 Pacific ports, the only closure was at the port of San Carlos, where a small federal electricity commission installation is located.

The remainder of the Pacific ports, including industrial hub Manzanillo, remained open as of 4pm Tuesday local time.

On Tuesday afternoon four smaller ports were closed on both sides of Comondu, where locals fish shrimp, tuna and sardines, added Medina.

Mexico's Baja California state is home to 637,000 residents, according to the country's 2010 census.

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Rafael, a Category 1 hurricane, churned toward Bermuda on Tuesday, but was expected to pass east of the British territory and continue moving over open seas.

Rafael was centred 210km south of Bermuda and moving north-northeast at 42kph. It had top sustained winds of 137 kph.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Bermuda, which was expected to see heavy winds, the centre added.

Authorities cancelled several international flights as Rafael approached. The Bermuda Weather Service said the storm's centre  would move approximately 193 km east of Bermuda later on Tuesday. 

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- Reuters

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