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Hurricane builds, heads for Baja

Mark Stevenson Associated Press

LOS CABOS, Mexico – Hurricane Jimena roared toward Mexico’s resort-studded Baja California Peninsula on Monday, prompting emergency workers to set up makeshift shelters and chasing away an international finance conference.

Jimena is just short of Category 5 status – the top danger rating for a hurricane – and could rake the harsh desert region fringed with picturesque beaches and fishing villages as a major storm by this evening, forecasters said. Heavy bands of intermittent rain moved across the resort town of Los Cabos on Monday evening.

Workers at the Cabo San Lucas marina nailed sheets of plywood on storefront windows while fishermen secured their boats ahead of Jimena, which was packing winds near 155 mph. Hotels and restaurants gathered up umbrellas, tables, chairs, and anything else that might be blown away.

At least 10,000 families were ordered to evacuate their homes in low-lying areas and shantytowns, said Apolinar Ledezma, the municipal public safety director.

The government said it would send out 200 military personnel and dozens of police in trucks to help people reach dozens of shelters. Authorities warned that those who refuse to evacuate would be forced to do so.

“We are going to start by inviting people to leave. … The moment will come when we will have to make it obligatory,” said Garibaldo Romero, interior secretary for the municipal government.

After official hurricane warnings were broadcast, organizers of an international financial meeting scheduled for Cabo San Lucas this week decided to move their conference – including more than 170 representatives from 54 countries – to Mexico City.

“The meeting has been planned for two months and the meteorological conditions, by their very nature, are unpredictable,” said Anthony Gooch, spokesman for the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information, sponsored by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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