Image: Surf off Bermuda
Gerry Broome  /  AP
People look out over the Atlantic Ocean as Hurricane Igor approaches in Bermuda on Saturday.
updated 9/18/2010 11:39:43 PM ET 2010-09-19T03:39:43

Tourists caught the last flights out of Bermuda and locals stocked up on emergency supplies Saturday preparing for Hurricane Igor, while Mexicans mourned at least seven killed by Hurricane Karl.

An extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane earlier in the week, Igor was still a Category 2 storm, and officials warned that its pounding rains and driving winds could be deadly.

"This storm will be a long and punishing one," Public Safety Minister David Burch said. "The potential for injury and physical damage is great."

High surf kicked up by the storm has already swept two people out to sea in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, far to the south.

Several people in the Bahamas stared mesmerized at the 12- to 15-foot waves, including Peter Mills, 44, who took his wife and two children to John Smith's Bay Park to watch.

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"It's absolutely spectacular, but it's probably going to be absolutely horrifying come the next couple of days," Mills said.

In Mexico, meanwhile, the remnants of Hurricane Karl soaked south-central portions of the country as authorities sent helicopters to rescue scores of people stranded by flooding and hunt for others feared washed away.

At least seven fatalities were reported. A 61-year-old woman and a 2-year-old girl died when a landslide buried a house in the town of Nexticapan in Puebla state. In Veracruz state, a woman and two young children were swept away by a rushing river in Cotaxtla and two women were found dead in Felipe Carrillo.

Tropical-storm-force winds were forecast to start battering Bermuda Saturday night, with the hurricane expected to pass directly overhead or nearby late Sunday or early Monday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Igor had maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (160 kph) and was located about 285 miles (455 kilometers) south of Bermuda late Saturday. Hurricane-force winds extended about 90 miles (150 kilometers) from the storm's center, and it was headed north-northwest and expected to curve during the night toward the British Atlantic territory.

Forecasters said Igor could bring 6 to 9 inches of rain and cause significant coastal flooding. 

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Hotel cancellations were reported across Bermuda, popular with tourists for its pink sand beaches and with businesspeople as an offshore financial haven.

Sophie Dier, a spokeswoman for Elbow Beach hotel, said it was almost fully booked for the weekend until a business group and a wedding party canceled. Now the hotel will be around 10 percent full, she said.

Two Fairmont hotels also reported a 20 to 40 percent drop in occupancy.

"We have been proactively advising our guests to reschedule their travel plans," said Shelley Meszoly, Fairmont's regional marketing director.

Bermudians were planning ahead and buying up supplies, said Mark Stearns, vice president of Masters Ltd., a home and garden store in the capital of Hamilton.

Story: What's in a hurricane's name?

"We've sold out of generators, tarpaulins, buckets, rope, screws, bottled water, coolers, even trash cans and plastic sheeting," he said. "Anything people can use to secure their homes."

Schools will close Monday and Tuesday, and a local newspaper said it will not print a Monday edition.

Image: People look out over the Atlantic Ocean
Gerry Broome  /  AP
People look out over the Atlantic Ocean as Hurricane Igor approaches in Bermuda.

"This decision has not been taken lightly," editor Bill Zuill wrote in an article published Saturday. "It will be the first time in living memory that The Royal Gazette has missed an edition."

The government closed the L. F. Wade International Airport at midafternoon and said it would likely not reopen until Monday. A causeway from the east end of the island to the rest of Bermuda was also to be closed.

The last plane to leave was a British Airways flight bound for London, which departed three hours earlier than usual.

Aboard was Jane Royden, 47, and her husband, both from Birmingham, England.

"We are quite relieved to be leaving and concerned for the safety of the island and everyone here," said Royden, who cut her two-week vacation short by a week.

Traveller's Boat Works marina was running out of space for all the vessels whose owners wanted them out of the water, and arranged to turn a nearby church parking lot into a makeshift boat yard.

"They pushed the panic button basically between Thursday night and yesterday," said marina operator Kristy Roberts. "I had maybe 20 boats to mess with, now I'm up to possibly 40 ... and I think it's going to go well over that."

Bistro at The Beach, a popular bar and restaurant in Hamilton, reported a busy Friday night ahead of the storm.

"I guess people are making the most of getting out and partying," manager Duncan Adams said. "They're going to be cooped up in their homes from today."

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In 2003, Hurricane Fabian killed four people when it hit Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane.

In Mexico, Karl was dissipating over the mountains Saturday, though it could still produce as much as 3 more inches of rain in some areas, the Hurricane Center said.

Karl had sustained winds of 115 mph when it hit land at midday Friday about 10 miles northwest of the port city of Veracruz, but the storm rapidly lost force over rugged territory that includes Mexico's highest volcano, 18,619-foot Pico de Orizaba. The storm's winds were down to 25 mph by Saturday morning.

Mexico's navy sent helicopters to rescue about 40 families trapped on a hill surrounded by floodwaters in the town of San Pancho, north of Veracruz city, said state Civil Protection Secretary Silvia Dominguez.

South of the city in Cotaxtla, a town of about 5,000 residents, a river jumped its banks and flooded homes up to their rooftops.

Mechanic Oscar Rojas Hernandez said he realized in the middle of the night that the water was rising fast next to his family's home and went to get help. By the time he returned, the raging current kept him from reaching the house and he watched helplessly from 20 yards away as it went under completely in a matter of minutes.

Crews later found the body of Hernandez's son and two other villagers; his wife and mother were among five people still unaccounted for.

"We did not think the river would rise so fast," Hernandez told The Associated Press, sobbing. "I lost my family."

Homes, restaurants and shops along Cotaxtla's main street were choked with mud, water and tree branches.

"There are no words for this," Mayor Cirilo Pena said. "It's something we didn't expect. It's the first time this river has risen so far."

Veracruz state Gov. Fidel Herrera said some 16,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes as the storm roared through, downing trees, power lines and billboards and erasing beachfront huts.

Local forecasters said the storm dumped 8 inches of rain in the city just in the first 90 minutes after arriving. Flights into Veracruz were canceled, and public transit was shut down on Friday, though air and bus service began to resume on Saturday.

Tropical Storm Julia, far out in the Atlantic, was weakening and not expected to threaten land.

Associated Press writers Jason Bronis in Hamilton, Bermuda; E. Eduardo Castillo in Cordoba, Mexico; and Miguel Angel Hernandez in Veracruz, Mexico, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Igor will be ‘long event’ for Bermuda

  1. Transcript of: Igor will be ‘long event’ for Bermuda

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: Tourists tonight are scrambling to leave the island of Bermuda as powerful Atlantic Hurricane Igor closes in. As residents brace for this storm, the remnants of Hurricane Karl continue to spawn flooding across parts of Mexico . At least six people have died there, while scores of others have been rescued from the rising water. So with that one-two punch, The Weather Channel 's Jim Cantore joins us now from Bermuda as residents prepare for the arrival of

    Igor. Jim: Yeah, Lester , the premier has pretty much set the tone in calling this what is going to be one of the worst hurricanes to ever affect the island. It's going to be a long-duration event. Look at the satellite picture here. If we were to take this cloud shield and stick it on a map of the United States , Lester , it would last -- pretty much stretch from Green Bay , Wisconsin , all the way down to Miami . That's huge. So that means Bermuda is going to endure tropical storm - and hurricane-force winds anywhere from 24 to 36 hours, which is a tremendous long time, probably about three to four times what would normally be the case here for a storm. So we're looking at winds, even though they've dropped down to 100 miles an hour today, enough -- strong enough to do tree damage and also power line damage, which is really what they're expecting here to be the main issue, a lot of tree and power line damage. Sixty-four thousand people, though, are definitely ready to brace this thing. They were out today admiring Mother Nature 's handiwork with the waves, forecast to be as high as 40 feet crashing against the barrier reef. Some of those waves will crash as high as 20 feet here once they make it to shore. So from really later on tonight, Lester , all the way through Monday it is going to be a long event for Bermuda . We're obviously hoping for the best here on this tiny island. Everything is shutting down as we speak. Back to you.

    JIM CANTORE reporting: And we wish you and everyone there the best. Jim Cantore , thanks very much in Bermuda getting ready for Igor .


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